Opportunities to participate and have a say improve a person’s sense of wellbeing. The foundations for the right to inclusion are laid down in the constitution and human rights legislation. This regulatory framework also guarantees the right to inclusion as a right of the child.
Research in general and the survey carried out during the preparation of the National Child Strategy reveal that children feel they should be consulted more often for their opinions and views. They also wish that adults would listen to them more when making decisions that concern them. Moreover, children do not enjoy equal opportunities for inclusion and there are clear disparities between different groups with some children being more excluded than others from their right to participate. Equal opportunities to participate is one of the cornerstones of the right to inclusion.
Consulting children in the drafting of bills
The goal of the National Child Strategy is to promote and strengthen children’s right to inclusion. The aim of the strategy is to make it an integral and automatic part of all decision-making and measures concerning children, whether directly or indirectly, to include and consult children in the process and to provide children with appropriate access to information.
So far, children have rarely been given the opportunity to be directly heard during the drafting of bills. Children and young people have been included in the consultations mainly in connection with the drafting of the Act on Early Childhood Education and Care, the act extending compulsory education and the Youth Act. However, there is growing interest towards children and young people’s views and opinions.
Children and young people have the knowledge and experience that adults easily overlook or have no access to. Therefore, there is the risk that the assessment of the impact of implemented or planned measures concerning children will be lacking in crucial insight. Yet the impact of the regulatory framework may be immediate and real on children and young people and their lives.
The inclusion pilot opens up ways to consulting children in the drafting of bills
In the child welfare inclusion pilot, child welfare clients will be consulted on the planned amendments to the Child Welfare Act. The consultation of the children on the amendments to legislation will take place simultaneously with the general round of consultation. The views of the young people consulted will be reported to the drafters of the bill.
The working group for the inclusion pilot have prepared a summary in collaboration with young people on the content of the amendments under consultation. The drafters of the bill have been involved in the cooperation. The pilot has already produced valuable practical knowledge about working with young people. It has proved the expectation that young people are highly motivated to discuss the real impact of the current legislation and its possible amendments. Young people have also provided valuable feedback on how the consultations could be successfully organised in practice. Such feedback is essential as the processes adopted in the pilot and the experiences gained through them will be documented and analysed in a forthcoming publication.
Consulting children and young people as an interactive process
How successful the consultations are depends on how rewarding and engaging the actual situation is for children and young people. The consultation cannot be an adult-centred process and the methods must be genuinely collaborative and interactive. The way information is shared is also crucial: children and young people cannot be expected to contribute to something if they do not understand the overall context or how the matter at hand is interlinked with and affects other matters.
Further information about the pilot project:
Pasi Pollari, firstname.lastname@example.org, +358 (0)44 506 0764
Laura Saarinen, email@example.com, +358 (0)295163352