Disabled children and young people have the same rights as non-disabled children and young people to participate in decisions and issues that affect them.

A boy has a safety harness fitted for an outdoor activity.

The importance of the participation of disabled children and young people is reflected in both the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and more recently in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Recent years have seen the introduction of significant policy and practice levers and duties that support disabled children and young people’s participation. Local authorities have expectations on them to support and involve children and young people to participate in decision-making. This includes decisions about their own support and care as well as local provision.

Despite this, disabled children and young people have fewer opportunities to participate in decision-making than their non-disabled peers. VIPER research tells us that many disabled young people are still being excluded from participation and decision-making opportunities. Basic access needs to support disabled young people's participation are not being met, and children and young people with higher support needs and communication impairments face significant additional barriers to participation.

As the services disabled children and young people use change, it’s important that we ensure they have opportunities to shape and influence them. Involving children and young people and hearing what they have to say is key to successful projects and ensures that your work meets their needs. Projects or services for children, young people and their families that incorporate participation will be improved, better informed, better targeted and more effective. By asking, listening and responding to the views of children and young people right from the start, your projects will be on the right track from the beginning.

At our training days and conferences, colleagues are always telling us that they would like to be able to build more participation into their daily practice. We’re here to make sure that professionals feel confident and skilled to make this happen.  

What are we doing about it?

At CDC, participation informs the way that we work and is an intrinsic part of everything we do. Our vision is that all organisations, agencies and services that affect children and young people will have structures and systems in place to respond to their ideas and priorities, and to work with them to bring about positive change. We believe that by supporting and training professionals in their participation practice and involving children and young people at key stages in our work, we can increase opportunities for participation and make our vision a reality.

We are currently working on a national participation programme, Making Participation Work. This is the flagship programme commissioned by the Department for Education that is spearheading change by championing young people's voices. Through our young disabled person's advisory group, FLARE, we gather the views of young people and advise the Department for Education. You can read more about the work of FLARE here.

Visit the Making Participation Work page