A RIGHT blether with Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People (Part 1) - Katie Brown

Child care and protection research
Published on 15 Mar 2012

Katie Brown, Head of Participation and Education, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People (SCCYP) shares her experiences of being involved in developing and delivering a large-scale programme of participative consultation with children and young people from across Scotland. 'A RIGHT blether' created an opportunity for children and young people to share their opinions and experiences, to say what's important to them, and to inform the work of the Commissioner.

In this clip, Katie tells us about the focus, creativity, challenges (including the extensive flurry of snow experienced across Scotland at the peak of consultation activity!) and excitement involved in such a large scale consultation. Designed to raise awareness and understanding of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), as well as the role of the Commissioner, and to create opportunities for children and young people's voices to be heard (in line with Article 12 of the UNCRC), 'A RIGHT blether' culminated in a vote by 74,059 children and young people on what issues they thought the Commissioner should focus on.

Find out more about A RIGHT blether

Further resources

Date of recording
Audio transcript

Child care and protection research collection

Transcript of part 1 of a talk by Katie Brown, recorded on 6th January 2012

Welcome to the Iriss podcast. You are listening to a talk as part of the Childcare and Protection Research Collection, a partnership of Iriss and the Scottish Childcare and Protection Network. This talk was recorded on 6th January 2012. Katie Brown speaks about 'A RIGHT Blether'.

CC My name is Katie Brown - I am Head of Participation and Education at the Office of Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People - the post is currently held by Tam Baillie.

I am here to talk about a piece of work that was called 'A RIGHT blether'. 'A RIGHT blether' was undertaken by the Commissioner in 2010. The overarching aim was to deliver an effective and comprehensive national consultation with a minimum engagement of 50,000 children and young people under the age of 18, or 21 if that young person or child had experience with Scotland's care system. It was the Commissioner's own ambition - the 50,000 target had been identified because the largest consultation to date had been around about that figure, which was the consultation that had been undertaken on smoking in public places. So the Commissioner was very eager to ensure that the voice of children and young people was engaged purposefully and in a very valued and important manner across Scotland.

Well first of all we had to ensure that we really understood what we wanted to get out of this conversation. It became a national 'conversation' ... that's we decided to call it, as opposed to a 'consultation' or a 'study', because we felt that the more real this piece of work was going to be for children and young people, the realer the language ought to be in terms of how they might describe it themselves in the playground or at home to their parents. So the national conversation with the Commissioner between a minimum of 50,000 children and young people and himself had to be built on very strong foundations.

First of all we identified that this was a real life project - this was something that children and young people were going to know would make a difference, and it would make a difference because the view of those children and young people would inform the Commissioner's own strategic plan for the next five years. So from the very outset we knew that what we were going to learn from children and young people would influence the areas of work that he was going to be undertaking. So therefore, they were really advocating, not on behalf of themselves alone, but on behalf of children and young people across Scotland who might benefit from the intervention of the Children's Commissioner in areas of life where children and young people were facing challenges. So that was the first thing.

We wanted also to ensure that all of this energy would raise awareness about an understanding of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child - not just with children and young people, but with adults who very often are the gatekeepers to what children can learn about and understand. So we wanted really to ensure that we were reaching hearts and minds, as well as intellectual capacities about what the UNCRC meant and how that might look in day to day life - whether you were in a school as a teacher, in a playground as a child, in a hospital as a nurse or receiving services within a hospital, a child who was in trouble or an adult who was trying to advocate and protect a child. We wanted people to start to begin to unravel what the UNCRC meant and see it in real life terms.

Thirdly, we wanted to ensure that the project was going to raise awareness and understanding about the purpose and the role of Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People. We knew that Being Young in Scotland had identified previously that awareness about what Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People was set up to do - the purposes and the person of the Commissioner was very low in terms of awareness. So we knew that children and young people, and adults themselves, had to really begin to understand how and why that role was important to them in their lives, in the same way as I was talking about before in a day to day basis - what that process was set up to do and how that post and the purpose of that post was set up to try and blow some real life into the lived experience of children day to day in Scotland.

So to meet these aims we decided that we would split the programme to ensure that we were catching as many children and young people and adults as possible. First of all we had to prepare, so we set about creating resources that were educational, that were linked to the delivery of the Curriculum for Excellence, but that were also really engaging and fun - they used drama and fun and games and all sorts of creative approaches to build a whole programme that could be delivered in part or in whole, in schools or in youth clubs, or in other environments where children and young people were - which would introduce them to the UNCRC, which would introduce them to the role and the purpose of the Commissioner, which would introduce them to the concept, primarily of Article 12 which is all about the child's right to have their voice heard, and for the opinions of that child to be listened to and taken seriously. And then to get under the bones of what we were talking about and explore some areas of life where children and young people may be experiencing fantastic, wonderful opportunities, or they might think that improvements should be made.

We set up the resources, we invited Directors of Education primarily, Directors of Children's Services and Teachers, Head Teachers, Social Workers, Voluntary Sector Children's Workers, everybody we could think of across all of those sectors - to come together and to meet the Commissioner in person at receptions, which we held across Scotland - there were seven different ones from Orkney down to the Borders. These were well attended, and in fact the feedback that we got for those was "if this is supposed to be a consultation about children and young people, that wasn't a great deal of fun". But the purpose of it was not to be a great deal of fun - but it was actually to get the serious message out about why it was important, that the Commissioner was really standing up and highlighting the importance of Scottish society, Scottish civic society at every level to be listening, and indeed listening to and engaging with children and young people. So that was the first thing.

What we did at those receptions was we explained what the programme was going to look like - it was going to be a year long programme and it was going to culminate in November at the time of the birthday, or the 21st birthday of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. So we were going to start with engagement with Tam, so that children and young people could question him, get to know him, as could adults - and that he could start to identify key issues for children and young people across Scotland. So we set something up called 'Tam's Tour', which essentially was Tam's tour. We also chose to communicate all of these concepts within cartoon formats. This proved to be a bit contentious, because our kind of main image for the whole programme was Tam himself sitting on a box with his hand in the air - and the cartoon was a very good likeness of him. Children and young people responded to this cartoon, whether he was sitting on a box, whether he was driving a bus for Tam's tour or in many of the other ways in which he was illustrated like this. And I think there possibly was a sense, a more adult sense that perhaps this ... there wasn't enough gravitas in these images for everybody to be totally comfortable with that approach. However, children and young people right across Scotland on Tam's tour - we visited all thirty two local authority areas. There were at least two touch bases in each of those areas. We keys into huge events, we keyed into little events, we went to bespoke venues or services or projects where it was appropriate, and we were able to do so, particularly to meet and talk with children and young people who perhaps face additional challenges to inclusion or to accessing services, or had particular stories to tell. We went to young offenders institutions, we went to Cornton Vale as well as going to youth clubs and primary schools and secondary schools and leisure centres and play projects - and the whole gamut. So what was interesting about that was that the illustrations and the resources had been well used by people who had signed up to wanting to be part of this big national conversation, and whenever we went anywhere with Tam, the children would recognise him from his cartoon. What we also did was we had created a key partnership with Learning andTeaching Scotland, as it was known at that time - it has now developed on to become Education Scotland. But Learning & Teaching Scotland of course run GLOW which is the intranet network for education across Scotland, and Tam also did a lot of tour stops using GLOW. So we were able to actually launch the whole project using GLOW, and we had over 800 children and young people join us from across Scotland just for that one event. We were also able to set up question and answers from children and young people directly back to Tam through the notice boards there, so after every GLOW network visit that he made, which might have four or five schools, or we might have fifty at an event, he would get hundreds of questions - theoretical and challenging - exploration of what 'rights' really means, which is brilliant, so that was all ...