Leading a discussion with a group of 10 year olds was definitely an unusual ‘day in the office’ for my Capita One colleague Jessica Adshead and myself when we met with 13 schoolchildren to discuss the importance of giving children a voice.
The session was part of a day organised by Capita called ‘Investing in the next generation of digital leaders’ and we’d been invited to talk a little about the work of Capita One with local authority children’s services and to find out how important our participants felt it was to give children a say in things that affect them.
How technology helps families access council services and support
We started the session by explaining what Capita One is and how it helps councils to pull together information about the people who live in their area. We also spoke briefly about how it helps people who work in councils do what they do faster and better, and how families can engage with the local authority through web portals. We then showed them our infographic on the school places portal to demonstrate some of the different ways that people use the portals to send information to their council, including using games consoles!
The ‘How it makes you feel’ activity
After the brief introduction to Capita One, we dedicated the rest of the session to looking at how important it was to include children’s views in things that matter to them.
We started with an activity to explore how it makes children feel when people do or don’t listen to their opinion on things that affect them. This was put into an abstract situation that they could recognise – a scenario where their school had some money for new equipment for the playground – but in a way which reflected the experience children with SEND and children known to social care have when services and plans are devised for them. We explored how it felt when children have either no ability to influence the plans and services put in place for them, or just asked for feedback on specific elements, rather than having a more direct ability to control what’s happening to them.
All of the children taking part said that they would feel ‘angry’ and ‘annoyed’ if they had no control over matters relating to them and more than 10 also said they would feel ‘fed-up’, ‘frustrated’, ‘grumpy’, ‘mad’, ‘sad’ and ‘worried’.
When they were asked how they’d feel on being made central to the decision-making process, all of the group said they would feel ‘thankful’ and ‘pleased’. Most of the group also said they’d feel ‘responsible’, ‘happy’, ‘great’, ‘glad’, ‘excited’, ‘ecstatic’, ‘delighted’ and ‘cheerful’.
We also talked about the UN rights of the child and that every child has a right to have their opinion heard, particularly around their own services and support.
Listening to the children’s views on website design
We then ran an activity around rating different children’s websites for their look and feel, navigation, and how much the children would want to visit them again. It was a great way to see what their views were on different types of design already in use on websites, and of demonstrating that their views and opinions matter.
Making sure the voice of the child is heard
When we were planning the session, we hoped that the children taking part would come away with an understanding of how it makes people feel when they’re given a choice and some control over what directly affects them. We also wanted to encourage them to get involved in things that they believe in because their voices and opinions are important and worthwhile.
So we were delighted that the children were really engaged and vocal about being able to have an input into things that affect them. Their view was that they’re the ones who know themselves best, and so they should be able to take some control of the experiences they have.
We couldn’t agree more. Engaging young people themselves in decision-making about the services they receive has been a key focus in the development of our new solution for SEND provision management and is something we’re keen to explore in other areas of children’s services technology.
A big thank you to our enthusiastic participants
The boys and girls who took part were from All Saints Primary School and Llandough Primary School in South Wales and travelled to Chippenham to meet with us. A huge thank you from us at Capita to the very enthusiastic participants and their equally enthusiastic teachers!