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Developing a young people’s forum

The Northern Ireland Guardian Ad Litem Agency (NIGALA) has been involved in an ongoing project to place children at the heart of decision making. NIGALA operates to promote engagement and participation in the court process by children and young people and to ensure their interests are safeguarded during the process. Over the last year, we have consulted with children and young people regarding our office signage and décor in the development of resources for practitioners to engage with children and young people to promote their participation in the court process.

At what level the PPI take place

  • Service development/delivery;
  • One to one.

PPI helped the project to

  • Improve quality;
  • Increase ownership.

Background

The Northern Ireland Guardian Ad Litem Agency (NIGALA) has been involved in an ongoing project to place children at the heart of decision making. Over the last year, we have engaged with children and young people in relation to Judge Gillen’s Family and Civil Justice Review, consulted with children and young people regarding our office signage and décor and consulted with children and young people in the development of resources for practitioners to engage with children and young people to promote their participation in the court process.

This has lead to the development of a Youth Forum, which is currently a pilot project running in the North West. The project aims to establish a Youth Forum made up of young people who have had experience of court proceedings in the family courts. The Forum would provide information on the experience of children and young people of the family court process, what worked and what could be improved. Such information could be integrated into service development and delivery.

A pilot group was established in March 2017 and has met on two occasions. To date five young people have joined the forum and another three have been nominated. The group has developed a charter of young people’s expectations when engaged with the family courts and top tips for judges when meeting children and young people have also been developed. This is a pilot project and learning from this exercise will inform us if the sustainability and viability of rolling out this group generally.

Aim of involvement

The aim and rationale for involvement with children and young people in this type of forum is to provide a means for incorporating the views of our main group of service users in our service development and delivery. This is a model that has been developed by our sister organisation in England and such forums have also been established in Scotland and Wales.

Method(s) of Involvement

  • Formalised involvement on strategic groups.

Challenges

Challenges included;

  • Recruiting young people to the Forum. Guardians have nominated young people whom we have been unable to engage. We are refining our methods of making contact with the young people and addressing how we can sell membership of the group to them.
  • Another challenge is sustaining the interest of members of the Forum. Due to the busy lives young people lead, we have to make engagement in our project worth their while and ensure they can benefit through the opportunities we provide, such as meeting the local judge.
  • It will be another challenge to ensure that our young people experience their contribution as meaningful and not tokenistic, so it will be important that they see results from taking part.

Outcomes due to involvement

To date the Forum has produced a charter of expectations for young people involved in the family courts, which has been shared within our agency, with the judiciary at a session on 15 May 2016 and with Children Order Panel Solicitors on 18 May 2016. The local judge in the north west has agreed to meet the young people. Their work to date has great potential to impact on the service.

Further Information

For further information, contact:
Teresa Fallon (Assistant Director, NIGALA)
Email: Teresa.fallon@nigala.hscni.net
Tel: 028 9536 1607