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Voice of the Child Participation Toolkit: Chapter 5 – Self-Assessment and Service Evaluation
When the results of the HSCP Participation Survey were taken to focus groups, it was possible to dig further into the reasons why results varied so much:
The phrase that kept returning time and time again was ‘It depends…’
‘‘It depends how old you are’’
‘‘It depends on whether you live in Hereford or in a rural location’’
‘‘It depends on whether you’re white middle-class or not’’
‘‘It depends which worker you get’’
‘‘It depends on whether your family has had problems before’’
‘’It depends on how able you are to understand what they say’’
‘‘It depends on whether you’ve got access to the internet’’
‘‘It depends how good your school is at passing messages on’’
‘‘It depends on your gender’’
‘‘It depends on your gender identity’’
‘‘It depends how loud you shout and how much of a fuss you make’’
‘‘It depends on how posh you sound’’
There needs to be less variables and ‘it depends…’ responses to provision, especially in terms of safeguarding.
Meaningful self-assessment and evaluation is always valuable for practitioners, but is also the starting point for a service to develop a really informed road-map to move forward. This then enables targeted quality assurance at every level and also ensures that support is made available where this is needed.
Whether it is the asking, listening, acting or feeding-back element of a process, any project needs to be evaluated. Again, it is part of developing good practice and ensuring that any form of participation is meaningful.
There are various models for this and it will largely depend on the nature of the project as to which you might use.
Although the questions are linked to mental health in particular, the template from the Young Minds Amplified Evaluating Participation Toolkit is easy to adapt and covers a lot of the key questions that will be useful in assessing successes and routes forward.
‘I had had the same things said to me multiple times, even when what was said previously had made no difference with helping me’
‘Keep listening and trying to support/help’
As with any project evaluation, it’s important to reflect on your role as a practitioner. Self-assessment like this can be incredibly helpful and doesn’t always need to be fed back. In fact, the more we self-assess rather than ‘be assessed’ the more likely there is to be genuine change driven by culture shift and desire rather than obligation or fear of missing targets.
Again, Young Minds Amplified Evaluating Participation Toolkit has useful templates for this.
Similar audits and feedback forms can help in framing the quality of participation in a department as well. The onus here is also on the follow-up (mapping followed by planning) and managers can easily develop evaluation plans using existing templates out there.
Embedding quality participation that leads to tangible outcomes can be done in a variety of ways. Having clear criteria across an organisation that practice can then be evaluated against, is a very logical step in this.
The NYA’s Hear by Right standard framework can also be used as a free self-assessment tool for services. The NYA outlines the tool in the following way:
The Hear by Right Self-Assessment Tool makes it easy and practical to map evidence of current participation in your organisation and then develop your strategy to build on it. It has been produced with Participation Works for Voluntary, Community and other Third Sector organisations to help you measure and improve participation in your organisation and show evidence of this to funders and commissioners of services.
More detail is available by visiting the National Youth Agency website
The service is audited/mapped according to criteria and within this mapping young people also comment on progress of how the indicator is being met. This, once again, encourages services to put young people at the heart of what they do, but also ensures valuable discussion prior to planning (for example, if there is a gap between service self-appraisal and young people’s views).
‘When I have mentioned topics to professionals on a feedback basis, they just ask the same question periodically and hope for change to naturally occur’
Whatever system a service adopts (and there are others out there), deciding upon the success criteria is vital, but a broad approach to categories is also advised. Every part of the organisation should be built into the process (the above titles of shared values, strategies, systems, structures, staff, skills and knowledge and leadership enables this).
There is also an argument for making greater use of an existing self-assessment mechanism that safeguarding partnership organisations complete as part of their duties under Section 11 of the Children Act 2004. This is a self-assessment or a self-audit form completed by a representative from each agency within the partnership.
For example, local safeguarding children partnerships should ask:
How are business / service plans informed by the views of children and young people?
How does the service review and design process take account of the views of children and their families?
How are children made aware of their right to be safe and protected from abuse?
How do organisations evaluate outcomes from the perspectives of children and young people?
Again, there are various ways to adapt a model, but the key point is that self-assessing how well you are listening to children, acting on their views and feeding back to them should be paramount.
Continuity of practice and quality assurance has to be in place to ensure ALL young people get the help they need. It shouldn’t depend on post-code, or practitioners in a particularly strong department, or which young person shouts the loudest, it is a right of ALL children to receive the very best service that can be provided.
‘Let children know that they are important, don’t abandon them, make sure they’re alright’