Monday 18 February 2013

Being included - workshop report

Being included - is the third in a series of four workshops looking at ‘Getting it right for looked after disabled children and young people’ (read about the 2nd workshop on the blog here)

The workshops bring together academics, policy makers, service practitioners, third sector organisations, service user organisations to discuss and debate the key issues with the aim of generating an impetus for research, policy and practice that will ultimately improve the lives of looked after disabled children and young people.

More details about previous discussions click here.  If you’re interested in registering for the next event on 17 April, email

Legal rights of looked after children

Zoe Picton-Howell, an English qualified solicitor, examines the legal rights of the looked after children and young people, and the challenges of the implementation of the right. She emphasises the legal aspects of UNCRC documents. She points out that the challenges to implementation may include that parents, carers and children lack knowledge of their rights, uncertainty as to the status of the rights as international law, and professionals’ difficulties in communicating with the children with little or no speech.

Zoe Picton-Howell speaking

Using children’s own communication systems
After looking at the legal issues of concern about children’s right, Bryony Beresford presents about the importance of communication and how to include voice of children with little or no speech. Children may have little or no speech due to different reasons. Bryony explains how people can seek the views of children by using a toolbox of approaches, including an individualised approach to have better knowledge of children and understand their needs and abilities. Researchers and carers should learn to use the children’s communication system in order to understand them more. She concludes her talk by noting that children are often delighted to participate in research, and parents and teachers are often surprised by the result. From this conclusion, it is remarkable that children with little or no speech are willing to express their view and we should provide them with channels.

After the talk, groups discuss the barriers and solutions to meaningful engagement with children and young people with little or no speech. The barriers may be due to the professionals not having enough time available, insufficient investment of resource and sometimes issues obtaining the consent of children.

Bryony Beresford talking

Tonje Gunderson and Parvanee Rabiee present their research projects about the looked after children and young people in the afternoon.

Raising awareness among case workers
Tonje Gunderson talks about an exploratory study into the situation for disabled children and young people in the child welfare system in Norway. Her colleagues and she interviewed caseworkers, foster parents and young adults who had experience with the child welfare system. The research suggested that children are not taken seriously; there should be more awareness within child welfare and highlighted the effects of prejudice. The study led the Norwegian government to consider launching guidance for caseworkers so that they emphasise the importance of taking children’s views into account.

Care leavers 
Parvanee Rabiee presents her research about how to develop good practice in supporting young disabled people leaving care in the UK. She reviews major reforms to support young people leaving care and wonders if disabled care leavers follow similar transitional pathways. She interviewed young people involved in a variety of settings. She suggests the key issues identified by the participants are family contact, friends, accommodation, information, health, independence skills, education, training and employment. She concludes and emphasises the importance of aspirations and goals in implications for transition planning.

The discussions among groups highlight that it is important to improve opportunities for young people to communicate, especially those who do not use speech; and promote better awareness of UNCRC Article 12.

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