Involving children and young people

Last updated: 27 Jul 2022
Involving children and young people

Involving children and young people in decision making, planning and hearing their voices is an important part of creating a safe culture in a club or activity.

We've developed this guidance to help your sport or activity to meet the child's safeguarding needs and provide the relevant tools to involving and listening to a child's voice within your setting.

Why should sports engage with children and young people?

Children and young people have a right to be engaged and to have their say on decisions that will directly affect them. 

Involving children and young people is an active process that enables their voice, views and experiences to influence and contribute to appropriate and relevant decision making. The involvement of children and young people shouldn’t be tokenistic.

If your club or activity is involving young people it should have meaning, or a significance for your organisation for their involvement. Most young people are involved as participants in sport, but many have taken on other roles, as coaches, officials, event organisers, young leaders or other voluntary roles.

Benefits and principles

Benefits for children and young people

Young people are the lifeblood and future of most sports, and having their voice heard within your organisation will benefit everyone.

Here are some of the key benefits for young people:

  • it provides unique opportunities for young people to give views, ideas, feedback and raise their own issues, worries or concerns
  • it gives a chance to develop new skills, experience and confidence
  • helps them to feel valued and listened to
  • more likely to feel comfortable to talk about concerns or worries with an adult in the club
  • it helps them gain confidence by working within a group, becoming more connected with their peers and increasing their sense of belonging, team moral and loyalty
  • the communication skills learnt will help them navigate challenging situations within the club in a more sensitive and appropriate manner

Benefits for sports, activities and organisations

Here are some of the key benefits for sports clubs or activities:

  • provides a space to hear concerns
  • promotes a child-focused approach, responsive to its core audience
  • if young people feel valued and listen to they are more likely to report any concerns and stay in sport for longer
  • it ensures that plans, projects and materials are appropriate and relevant to young people
  • the club or organisation can grow a valuable resource for consultation and involvement – in both the short and long term
  • the club or organisation is proactively engaging with children and young people and meeting safeguarding responsibilities to listen to the voices of young people

Principles of participation and involvement

It's important to understand the principles of participation and involvement of children and young people before your sports club, activity or organisation get started. These are:

  • participation is voluntary
  • it's informed by consent of the young people and parents
  • young people involved can leave the group when they choose
  • organisations may want to ask for a minimum time commitment
Key considerations

Key considerations for involving children and young people

Young people’s right to be involved

Particularly in decisions that will involve or impact on them. See our guidance below on children's rights to learn more.

Honesty, openness and respect

Your organisation should be prepared to hear, consider and, if required, act on information and feedback that may challenge existing plans, perceptions and practice. Those involved need to be open about the boundaries and parameters of the young people’s influence and to what degree your organisation can or will be open to feedback or suggestions from young people.

Management support and backing

It is essential that plans and arrangements to involve and consult with young people have management support.

Meaningful involvement

There should be a clear purpose to the process which fits with your organisation’s overall strategy, plans or aims. Involving young people for the sake of it achieves nothing. It risks alienating young people and damaging the reputation and image of the sports club or activity.

The focus of their involvement

Make it clear what the young people’s role will be. Establishing a terms of reference and role descriptions for ongoing groups will help to focus the young people’s involvement. Clarify what the outputs will be by the young people. Focus on the unique perspective that children and young people can contribute in a range of different areas within your organisation.

Examples of ways that your sports club or activity could involve children and young people and be more child centred, include:

  • collecting feedback – surveys, polls, feedback form to use after an activity, and social media polls
  • involving young people in decision making – youth forums, youth representatives on committee or board and as youth ambassadors

Adequate resource

Involving young people requires resources – in terms of staff, time, budget for venues, travel, materials, refreshments, administration for reports, practical arrangements such as booking venues, travel and rewards or acknowledgment of young people’s contributions.

Diversity and power issues

Steps should be taken to ensure that potential obstacles to participation are overcome, to ensure the involvement of young people is truly inclusive to all children and young people within your organisation. Power differentials between adults involved and young people, and between different groups of young people, should be recognised and addressed. Clarify ownership and leadership of the group, and how differences of opinion will be addressed.

Feedback

Arrangements should be in place to ensure that young people are kept updated about the way in which their feedback has been used, received, and about changes or decisions made by the organisation as a result their efforts and involvement.

Children’s rights

To protect children from harm there must be a culture where children feel safe to express any concerns. This culture is created by listening to the voices of children in everyday activities. Children’s rights should be safe and protected from abuse, violence and neglect.

Organisations have a moral duty to involve young people in decision-making. Their right to participate and be involved is underpinned and emphasised by following legislation:

How to involve children and young people

How to involve children and young people

The planning required to engage and involve children and young people will vary depending on the size of your organisation, your budget and how you would like to include them.

If you're not sure how to involve children and young people, our guidance below will help your sports club or activity to do so. For further information, see the Resources tab.

Setting aims and outcomes

Aims and focus for involving young people

It's important to establish if the young people will consider a range of issues affecting them within the sport, or just a specific topic or project. 

Identifying outcomes

Identify what outcome your sport or activity would like from young people’s involvement and participation in your decision making. Some possibilities include:

  • to produce or design materials
  • comment on policy, procedure, or practice issues
  • represent young people across the organisation
  • identify and advocacy on issues affecting young people within the organisation
  • develop ambassadors
  • to collect feedback
  • being part of board meetings
  • develop surveys

Practical considerations for participation and involvement

Your organisation should consider the practicalities of youth participation in decision making. Whether it’s face-to-face or online, you’re engaging young people in a single consultation, establishing an ongoing consultation group, youth forum, focus groups. using surveys, online group consultations or virtual meetings.

Venues and hosting

It's important to consider potential accessibility issues for all young people whether this be for venues you are using or virtual equipment to ensure your sport or activity is being inclusive of everyone's needs.

Timings of meeting or sessions

Consider school, college or university timetables, examination periods and term-times, as these may affect times, days of the year that wouldn't be suitable to carry out this work. Members of the group may be travelling to attend the sessions, so consider the times of day the sessions are held. 

If the session is virtual, ensure that members have clear information and easy to follow instructions about how and where to sign-in to the sessions.

Funding for involving children and young people

  • what is the budget for this work?
  • are arrangements in place to refund travel or other expenses?
  • have you considered other potential costs, such as venues, refreshments, materials and accommodation?

Recruiting young members, staff and volunteers

All children and young people within your sport or activity should have the opportunity to be involved and have their voice heard. Your group should be open to everyone and have representation from a diverse range of children and young people, considering:

  • ages
  • ability
  • social backgrounds
  • ethnicity
  • gender
  • sexual orientation
  • different roles across the organisation - participants, young officials, young organisers and existing young people’s groups

Addressing members additional support needs

Consider and address the additional support needs of younger, disabled, marginalised and or minoritised children taking part within your sports or activity participation or involvement.

Gaining consent

Before any work has taken place, consent from the young people and parents should be gained. 

Supporting children and young people

The work should also be supported by members of staff or volunteers who have specific responsibilities for supporting and facilitating activity of the young people. Consider the following:

  • safer recruitment process
  • criminal records checks carried out
  • a clear job description for supporting the group
  • person specification developed
  • support for these roles to help deliver the work of the group
  • development opportunities for group members, such as communication or presentation skills

Facilitation and communication

Facilitating involvement

  • who will chair or facilitate the group? - an adult staff member, volunteer, or young person
  • how will agenda items be raised, agreed or identified? - within the group or from elsewhere in the organisation
  • will the style, length of meetings, nature of activities, tools used, and breaks reflect the needs of the group on the basis of age, role or ability?
  • are the board involved and supportive of this work?
  • how will codes of conduct and terms of reference for group members and facilitators be developed and agreed?
  • how will a sense of fun be promoted and instilled within the work?

Communication

Who will be responsible for recording meetings and activities and for preparing feedback or reports?

  • to what degree will the young people retain control over what is recorded and reported?
  • how will disputes between adult facilitators, supporters and young members or between young members be managed, resolved and recorded?
  • how will the wider organisation, and in particular other young people, be updated and informed about the group’s work?
Resources

The following resources can help you to involve children and young people with decision making within your sports club or activity. 

CPSU and NSPCC resources

Sport-specific resources

Other useful resources