Children and young people’s right to participate

Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children have a right to express their views and have these taken into account when decisions are made which affect them.

Involving children and young people in decision-making:

  • ensures that their rights are upheld;
  • improves the quality of decision-making;
  • fosters active citizenship;
  • increases children and young people’s confidence and self-esteem. 

The UN Committee is clear that participation must be ongoing and consistent, not be tokenistic and must try to gather representative views. It is important that children and young people are involved in decision-making at both national and local level. 

Involving Children and Young People in Scotland

Expand the headings below to read about some of the ways children and young people are being involved in decision-making in Scotland.

  • Year of Young People 2018

    As part of the Scottish Government’s programme of themed years, 2018 is the Year of Young People (YoYP 2018). The Year of Young People 2018 aims to celebrate Scotland’s young people (8-26) and give them a stronger voice on the issues which affect their lives.

    Children and young people’s voices are at the heart of the Year. They led the planning of the project by holding consultation with hundreds of their peers. They are also leading its delivery through the Communic18 team, made up of 35 young people, and 500 YoYP Ambassadors.

    Read more about the Year of Young People 2018 here.

    Children and young people are also playing a key role in the planning and delivery of local Year of Young People 2018 activities. For example, children and young people took a lead role in creating Dumfries and Galloway’s Year of Young People Plan 2018. Its signature event, the 10’000 Voices project, will be Dumfries and Galloway’s largest ever exercise to collect the views of 10-25-year olds, and will inform a 5-year strategic plan for young people’s services across the region.

    Read more about Dumfries and Galloway’s Year of Young People Plan 2018 here.

  • Scottish Government consultation with children and young people

    The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 requires that Scottish Ministers take account of children’s views. Although the duty itself is weak as it is up to ministers to decide whether the views are ‘appropriate’ or ‘relevant’, Scottish Government has taken steps to involve children and there are several examples of children and young people participating in the development of national law and policy:

    • Cabinet meeting with children and young people: a meeting between the Scottish Cabinet and representatives of the Scottish Youth Parliament and Children’s Parliament has taken place annually since 2017. During these meetings, children and young people can share their views on key issues affecting their lives at home, at school and in their communities. The aim is that these views inform the Scottish Government’s agenda. After these meetings, the Scottish Government publishes a report on the actions agreed with children and young people, and reports on the progress made towards achieving these. Read the actions agreed at the 2018 Cabinet meeting
    • Campaign led by children with care experience: In 2014-15, children with care experience led a successful campaign to increase the care leaving age and widen the eligibility for Aftercare services. Read more
    • Discussion days: Partnership work between the Scottish Youth Parliament, Scottish Government and other organisations led to discussion days with young people in relation to proposals including: the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce; proposals for carers’ legislation and a refresh of the Youth Employment Strategy.
  • UNCRC Reporting Process

    Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs) were involved in the 2015-16 examination of the UK by the UN Committee. Their participation showed the value of involving young people in the UNCRC reporting process as the 2016 Concluding Observations reflect many of the concerns raised by MSYPs.

    Read more here.

Improving opportunities for participation

Despite the above progress, participation projects can still sometimes be one-off or fail to engage with children from underrepresented groups.

It is important that Scotland follows the instructions of the UN Committee that participation must be consistent and ongoing, not be tokenistic, and should try to gather representative views.  

Scotland can also learn from good practice abroad. For an overview of good practice in relation to children’s participation in national parliaments see Together’s recent consultation response.