Making Children’s Rights Real: UNCRC, The Promise and GIRFEC


An online session to discuss how we implement children’s rights in practice.

On June 21st, GCVS hosted a successful online session as part of a national, collaborative series ‘#MakingChildrensRightsReal’. The event series, designed in partnership with The Alliance, Children in Scotland, Children’s Parliament, Together and the Scottish Child Law Centre, aims to promote the UNCRC incorporation in Scotland, and highlight how other key policies, notably The Promise and GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) align. Earlier in the year, partner group The Alliance hosted a successful event focussed on the implementation of the UNCRC. The Alliance’s session set the scene for our second event, looking at how we implement children’s rights in practice, with a specific focus on #KeepingThePromise in Scotland. 

Attendees heard from three keynote speakers; Promise Development Workers at North-Lanarkshire Council, Beth-Anne Logan and Dylan Duff and Suki Wan, TSI Equalities and Human Rights Project Development Officer, from the newly launched Third Sector Human Rights and Equalities project. 

Hear from Beth-Ann and Dylan Duff here: 

We also welcomed several organisations, all with a wealth of experience of conducting co-production work with children and young people, who kindly agreed to host a series of workshops highlighting positive examples of co-production and design. Below you can find some of the key information and advice provided by organisations during their workshops, as well as access to useful materials and resources! 

The event drew to a close following a fantastic performance from performing arts company, Licketyspit! Some of the group’s Storyplay Champions shared the key principles and practical tools from their imaginary play approach ‘Storyplay’. Attendees were taught how the approach can be used in early years, primary and whole settings, to foster a children’s rights-based culture and meet the promises of UNCRC.

Check out more of Licketyspit’s work on their webpage: Families • Licketyspit


Includem: Co-designing the Bairns’ Hoose: Meg Thomas

Scottish youth support charity, Includem, led a conversation around their involvement in co-designing Scotland’s Bairns’ Hoose; a safe space where children and young people, who have experienced or witnessed violence or abuse.

Includem were commissioned by Health Improvement Scotland to work with young people, taking forward important work to shape the Bairns’ Hoose.  Workshop attendees heard from Meg Thomas who shared Includem’s experience around co-production with young people, how and what worked in practice, as well as other learning points.

Key learning points

  • Never underestimate the importance of listening to what children and young people would like to happen following their involvement in co design.
  • Allow young people to direct and shape their own work. Professionals should try to refrain from being too directive.
  • Participation is a right! Children and young people should be involved and supported where possible.

The Lundy Model of Child Participation

The Lundy Model was developed to guide adults on how to encourage young people to engage and participate in matters, which affect them. Includem is one of many services to adapt the Lundy Model in their co-design work with children and young people.

  • Having a safe space to engage with children and young people is vital, as are building and maintaining trusting relationships within these spaces. Children and young people involved in the co-design process were joined by Includem workers – people whom they trusted – at every design stage.
  • The importance of environments. Meg relayed how some young people preferred to open up to workers in less-formal settings; often car journeys for example. Creating and using spaces young people feel comfortable in can be hugely beneficial.
  • Choice! Providing young people with choices, and working to support their choices, is key to positive participation and engagement.
  • Making the effort to ensure that children and young people know they are being listened to. Young people want to feel valued and respected.


  • Record young people’s voices in ways which make them feel valued and appreciated.
  • The importance of feedback from decision makers themselves. Young people take comfort in knowing their contributions are being taken seriously. Keep participants in the loop with updates and progress!
  • Widen conversation topics to allow children and young people to reflect on their experiences.


  • Young people may be reluctant to relay past experiences to unknown professionals. Includem ensured that during consultation, young people were engaging with familiar faces, rather than expecting them to open up to strangers.
  • Audiences must be understanding, empathetic and willing to listen – re-living traumatic times can be extremely challenging for everyone, regardless of age.


  • Set out clear and realistic parameters. Be open with young people about potential outcomes: what could occur and what is unlikely to develop following their participation in projects.

You can access Includem’s presentation, here: Includem presentation


CYCJ/Staf: Ruth Kerracher & Kevin Lafferty

CYCJ work to develop participation rights, relationships and creative participation with care experienced children and young people, as well as those who have experienced or encountered criminal justice. The organisation provides a platform to help ensure that children and young people are accurately represented within key policy groups. This is achieved through engaging in youth work, building relationships and allowing young people to engage as, when and how they feel appropriate. Embedded in CYCJ’s values, they believe that young people should hold the autonomy and power to enable change through meaningful participation.

CYCJ’s areas of work:

‘Youth Just Us’ Steering Group

  • Formed in 2019, the steering group provides a safe space for care experienced young people to come together, share their experiences and the opportunity to influence change through creative participation.

Youth Justice Visionaries

  • A Scottish Government initiative, young people can engage in workshops and activities to help shape the focus of future youth policy. Young people were asked to review a questionnaire, to help increase accessibility, and did so through design workshops and consultation. As a result of their participation, an interactive practitioner topic guide was produced. Amazing work!

Naedanger online/VR game

  • CYCJ facilitated the involvement of young people to create a video game aiming to address knife crime. Informed by young people’s lived experience, the game was designed to highlight the importance of making the right choices and prevent criminal and offensive behaviour.

Working with Police Scotland

  • With the aim of creating positive relationships between young people and the police, young people worked with Police Scotland and had the opportunity to share their stories with the force, widening and enhancing lines of communication.

Free to access resources from Staf, including the participation practitioners’ forum:


Aberlour: Martin Canavan

In their workshop, Martin Canavan drew on Aberlour’s experiences in amplifying children, young people and families’ voices. With Article 12 of UNCRC at the core of the organisation,  Aberlour works to ensure that children and young people are able to participate in decision making on issues that affect them.

Aberlour’s most recent co-production project focussed on how to #KeepThePromise when designing residential children’s house and service, ‘Red Squirrel’. The organisation worked in partnership with three local authorities across Tayside to reach out to children and young people via local champion boards. A number of views and opinions were gathered from young people, notably the preference to use the term ‘care experienced advisors’ rather than ‘care experienced young people’. Young people helped to develop a plan of action tailored towards, and reflecting their own needs, rather than those of the organisation. Other co-designing activities involved helping to design the exterior and interior of the house and recruiting staff members to work in the house.

You can find more information about Aberlour’s most recent example of co-production, here:

Young people design new house for children in care in Tayside – Aberlour


HSCP: Child Friendly Children’s Services Plan: Vincent Henry

Vincent Henry from GCHSCP hosted a workshop focused on designing a child-friendly Children’s Services Plan. The HSCP governance group set out to develop a child-accessible version of the Plan, with input from children and young people themselves. Adopting an open-ended consultation approach to allow for a sense of freedom and space, 850 young people were asked how children’s services could be improved. Young people had the opportunity to choose the most suitable and accessible format for the Plan – keep your eyes peeled for a Children’s Services TikTok video coming soon!

Following this consultation process, a co-production and strategy toolkit to share within the HSCP will be produced, to help future co-design efforts and to highlight the challenges, barriers and lessons learned.


Children in Scotland: Dana Vreeswijk & Parisa Shirazi

Children in Scotland delivered a useful session on the principles of meaningful engagement and participation with children and young people, and shared learning on how to conduct successful co-design work.

Their key guidelines for co-production are:

  1. Think about engagement during the early stages of the project.
  2. During participant recruitment, remember to be inclusive and acknowledge the importance of relationships.
  3. Venue and delivery – a safe space is vital; one which meets diverse needs.
  4. Relationships – take the time to get to know the young people involved, establish some ground rules and work as equals.
  5. Be accountable – ensure that young people’s contributions are shared, and in return, young people are informed of the impact of their work.

“You need to plan, but you also have to trust that children and young people, with the right tools, will lead. You need to set up the scenario so that they can run with it.”

Children in Scotland have also led a Peer Research Project: Participation Through the Pandemic, where young people drew on their lived experience of the pandemic, explored the impacts of covid, and how they engaged with services throughout this time. Young people were involved at each stage of the project, designed and developed their research, and produced six case studies for analysis. The importance of timing, enjoyment, power, leadership and analysis were highlighted as crucially important factors throughout this peer research project.

Children in Scotland’s top tips to bear in mind for successful co-design with children and young people are:

  • Relationships are key.
  • Meaningful participation takes time.
  • Trust young people and let them lead.
  • Co-design will never be perfect, but learning and growing is just as important as the final product.
  • Trust the process.

CiS MCRR presentation 21.06.22


University of Strathclyde – ‘Look Who’s Talking: Eight factors for eliciting voices.’: Professor Kate Wall

Professor Kate Wall from the University of Strathclyde delivered an informative workshop on the ‘Look Who’s Talking’ project. The project explored methods of listening, understanding and interpreting the voices of children from 0-7 years, as well as looking at early years practice techniques with practitioners.

Some of Kate’s key points included:

Perception of children’s voices

  • Practitioners often rely on the spoken word to conceptualise the voice of older children and young adults.
  • ‘Attunement’ is an alternative method of interpreting children’s voices. Primarily used in the Early Years Sector, this method focuses on children’s behaviours and emotions as a way of conceptualising voice.
  • From birth, children can express their opinions. It is important not to exclude those who are ‘hard to reach’.
  • Practitioners should take a varied approach to hearing children’s voices, depending on the environment, age range and wider context.
  • Use prompts and talking points as conversation starters, and make use of existing resources!
  • Be clear in your definition of voice. Everyone has a voice; even those who are non-verbal, pre-verbal, emergent-verbal.
  • Children’s rights must remain at the core of any work with children and young people.

Defining voice:

  • Voice can have different meanings in different contexts. For example, someone may feel as though they are lacking voice in certain spaces, but feel able to exert their voice without feeling silenced.
  • Voice will differ depending on the dialogue and whom a child is engaging in dialogue with, e.g. parents, teachers, and other professionals.
  • A child’s voice can develop over time and in different environments. Voice can also change based on a child’s familiarity within certain environments.
  • How adults react to children and young people is crucial. Professionals must be aware of power imbalances, recognise, and work through them.


  • Try to ensure that all children feel included; this may involve adjusting approaches depending on the individual and their ability or willingness to voice their opinions.
  • Certain environments, e.g. schools, can create a sense of unconscious conformity between young people.
  • Consider the diversity of spaces, places and tools for utilising one’s voice.
  • Be creative and varied to allow more children to participate in co-production and consultation work. For example, consider language barriers and how to overcome this.

How to develop skills and dispositions for voice

  • Be open to children’s comments and opinions, in a pedagogically appropriate way.
  • Use creative approaches; messy play is great!
  • Be reflective and strategic with your engagement.
  • Communicate learning to young people.

Kate introduced eight talking point posters designed to facilitate dialogue around voice in different contexts and across varying age groups. The talking point posters are available to download, here:


Young Movers (YOMO): Caitlin McGlynn

During this workshop, Caitlin McGlynn gave an overview of YoMo’s various projects involving young people. The organisation aims to help young people ‘shape their future by shaping their community’.

The organisation enables young people to achieve this through education and promotion around human rights, active citizenship, volunteering and lifelong learning activities.

As a youth-led organisation, youth engagement and participation in decision-making are two of YoMo’s core values, achieved through various volunteering opportunities and co-design projects with young people.

Youth Health Champions

In partnership with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the Youth Health Champions scheme is just one of YoMo’s many volunteering opportunities available to young people. As part of the programme, young people deliver health-focussed training to local organisations and help to share positive messages around health and wellbeing, using a Peer Education approach. Youth Champions are eligible to become peer educators, enhancing their employability skills and have the opportunity to work towards a Saltire Award for their volunteering efforts.

Hear from one of YoMo’s Youth Health Champions, and find out more about the project by following these links:

YoMo – Health Champs (

(24) A Look at The Youth Health Champions – YouTube


Children’s Parliament Workshop – Co-producing through Investigations: Vicky Wan & Gregory Metcalfe

The Children’s Parliament has developed an approach called an Investigation and has provided a fantastic overview of their new initiative – let’s find out what they said during their workshop! *Extract provided directly from organisation* 

 “In an investigation, children are supported to explore a topic, present findings and produce resources to progress the rights and wellbeing of children. Each investigation, reflecting the nature of co-production, takes a bespoke approach. In this workshop, representatives used the How Professionals Make Rights Real Project as an example to share the highlights as well as the challenges when we co-created UNCRC learning resources with children.

The Investigation model on various topics in the past, like Bullying, Alcohol-free childhood and PSE Review.

About Children’s Parliament

We are a national children’s rights organisation. Since 1996, we have been working with children from early years to 13 or 14 years old across Scotland, helping them to learn about their human rights, and supporting them to share their views on the issues that matter to them. We also work with organisations and public bodies, professionals and other adults, to promote and fulfil children’s rights locally and nationally.

For us, the link between the UNCRC, the Promise and GIRFEC is a rights-based approach to working with children; how we create an environment and a culture which empowers children, so that their wellbeing and their voice are at the heart of everything we do.

The Project: Children’s Parliament Investigates How Professionals Make Rights Real (HPMRR)

The individual teacher, social worker, health professional, police officer etc. has always been recognised by Members of Children’s Parliament (MCPs) as a key ally in the delivery of the experience of rights for children day-to-day whether at school, within service provision, or in the community. While the UNCRC is being incorporated into Scots law, this further highlights the responsibilities of these adults as duty-bearers to promote, protect and achieve children’s human rights. 

In this project, we used our Investigation model to explore the specific role of professionals who work with children post-UNCRC incorporation, and to produce learning materials with the children that will build the knowledge, confidence and competence of duty-bearers in the context of children’s human rights as law.

What does an Investigation look like?

In this instance, we worked with 13 children in 4 Primary Schools in Clackmannanshire and East Lothian. Before the group was selected, our staff team spent a day in each class observing, and the following week delivered whole class workshops on children’s rights and the UNCRC. We introduced the idea that children’s rights are to keep children happy, healthy and safe, and to ensure they have human dignity – a really important concept to get across.

We selected our groups on the basis of what they might be able to bring to the project with their own experience, as well as what they could gain from the participation. We are always keen to support those children who for whatever reason might not usually get the same opportunities to express their views.

One of the first tasks for our Investigators (and their classes) was to identify professionals in their local community who they interact with – the relationships we built with these professionals over the course of the project became a key part of its success.

During the project, the MCPs investigated what it means to be a professional, how adults work with children, and applied what they learned about Children’s Rights to co-design interviews and workshops for adult participants. Supported by our staff team, the MCPs used their creativity, knowledge, and experience to make the experience fun, inclusive and purposeful for both children and adults.

Towards the end of the investigation, the Investigators used what they had found out about children’s rights and the ways that professionals work to co-produce a suite of learning resources.

Using a creative approach

Creativity and openness are the two significant factors in all Children’s Parliament work. We don’t always ask children to express themselves in writing or in words, recognising that might be a major barrier for some. We encourage them to share their ideas in any shape or form that feels natural to them and make sure that we’re always prepared to adapt our plans to the children’s interests.

In this project, we offered the MCPs the chance to:

  • Draw pictures and create paintings
  • Make models (clay, playdoh, puppets)
  • Create masks, posters, origami   
  • Produce music 
  • Write poems 
  • Tell stories
  • Develop scenarios, scripts, music, and illustrations for an online video game 
  • Interview adults 
  • Make short film inc. scripts writing, lighting, sound recording…


Watch this video to see the children talking about the project in their own words:

The MCPs expressed enjoyment in learning about children’s human rights. They were able to relate to their own experience and apply their knowledge of children’s rights in real life situations. They also articulated their understanding through drawings.

The interview process provided strong evidence that MCPs understood the power and importance of their voices. They developed the interview questions collectively, challenging adults about their perception of children’s rights and their practice. The children asked these questions to adult professionals (who they had never met) with confidence. They were also able to contribute their own views to keep the dialogue going.

The MCPs expressed pride in their work and contributions, enhancing self-worth. At the launch event, they were all able to enthusiastically recount their individual contributions –  whether it was their voice-over work, the illustrations or drawings, the roles they had in the interview process, or to talk about the art techniques they used. After the event, many of the MCPs took their artwork home to display and treasure in their own rooms.

Over the course of the project, the MCPs have developed friendships with each other. Through working together, they recognised other MCPs’ strengths and worries. They showed empathy and supported each other in activities and at the launch. Our staff witnessed many occasions that the MCPs stepped up and offered support to each other.


The impact of COVID remains a challenge for the delivery of our work. The variations in interpretation of guidance and restrictions between local authorities and schools required ongoing negotiation and careful navigation by our staff. Also, the pandemic continues to reduce the opportunities for us to bring MCPs together face to face which has limited the use of favoured creative approaches. A longstanding challenge which is heightened as a result of the pandemic is the ability of school staff to have the supported time and space to meaningfully engage in our school-based work which is critical to the ongoing impact of our programmes.

The level of dedication and enthusiasm from the MCPs was unexpected. The enhanced restrictions in December meant we had to work with the children in an outdoor environment. However, it did not undermine the MCPs’ determination. They remained focused and continued to participate in the tasks we had planned, despite the adverse weather in the winter. Thick coats and hot cocoa helped!”

You can find further resources on the Children’s Parliament website:

Resources – Children’s Parliament Investigates (


Today not Tomorrow with Laura Campbell from Who Cares? Joined by Beth-Ann Logan and Dylan Duff.

Today not Tomorrow (TnT) are a group of care experienced young people who are part of North Lanarkshire’s Champions Board, supported by Who Cares Scotland. They aim to create meaningful conversation between care experienced young people and their Corporate Parents, and for this conversation to influence change in policy and practice. The group hope to amplify the voices of care experienced young people and help to bring around positive changes in their lives. The Today not Tomorrow group have been involved in a number of collaborative projects, looking at how to Keep The Promise and making sure young people’s voices are heard.

You can access Laura’s presentation, used during the workshop, here.

Who Cares Scotland Presentation


A huge thank you to all of our fantastic speakers, workshop hosts and attendees for participating in the event. We hope you will join us ,and partners, in the next #MakingChildrensRightsReal session, which will take place on 30th August 2022, hosted by The Supporting the Third Sector Project (Children in Scotland). This upcoming event will focus on the GIRFEC policy and how it translates into practice. Tickets for the session are available below:

UNCRC in Scotland—GIRFEC: Policy into Practice Tickets, Tue 30 Aug 2022 at 10:00 | Eventbrite





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