How to ask children and make their opinions count in decision-making
Children’s Society is a British charity that works for vulnerable children and young people. The data it has collected and the frameworks it has developed on the well-being of children have been widely used by the government and child-related professionals. The below are some useful tools developed by the Children’s Society to ask children how life is going for them and to make the voice of children count in policy decision-making.
Asking Children How Life is Going For Them
Children’s Society has developed the Good Childhood Index to find out the subjective well-being of children: what is most important for young people to have a good life, how life is going for children and whether their situation has changed over the years. They ask children how far they agree or disagree with the below statements:
- My life is going well.
- My life is just right.
- I wish I had a different kind of life.
- I have a good life.
- I have what I want in life.
They also ask children to rate from 0 to 10 how happy they are with different things in their life (0 meaning very unhappy; 10 meaning very happy; 5 meaning neither happy nor unhappy):
- How happy are you with your life as a whole?
- How happy are you with your relationships with your family?
- How happy are you with how much choice you have in life?
- How happy are you with the things that you have (like money and the things you own)?
- How happy are you with your health?
- How happy are you with your relationships with your friends?
- How happy are you with your appearance (the way that you look)?
- How happy are you with what may happen to you later in your life (in the future)?
- How happy are you with the home that you live in?
- How happy are you with the school that you go to?
- How happy are you with the way that you use your time?
The Children’s Society also specifically ask questions about different areas of children well-being, such as family, home, choice and autonomy, school, health, appearance, time use, money and possessions, optimism/the future, local area, positive and negative emotions, and psychological well-being.
For a sample copy of its questionnaire, please visit this website.
Making the Voice of Children Count in Policy Decision-Making
Not only is it important to listen to the voice of children, it is crucial to make their opinion count in decision-making related to them, or else all asking and listening would be in vain. The importance of considering child well-being in policy-making
The Children’s Society has produced a framework whereby policy makers can measure and evaluate how far their policies and services are responding to the subjective well-being of children. This framework is summarized in its report “Promoting positive well-being for children: A report for decision-makers in parliament, central government and local areas”.
In this framework, the Children’s Society first seek to discover six priorities for children’s well-being through its Good Childhood Index (as mentioned above):
It then analyzes how the needs of children can be met through policies and services. This analysis can help policy makers to come up with new policy initiatives and to evaluate the effect of existing policies. The Children’s Society also makes sure that its analysis covers different government departments and stakeholders that are related to children, including those in the fields of education, health and social care, criminal justice, welfare and other public services.
This approach treats child well-being as both the starting point and the ending point: the starting point is to improve child well-being; the ending point is to evaluate how far the existing policy initiatives contribute to the well-being of children. This framework is very insightful to Hong Kong as it can ensure that the massive system that is supporting the lives and well-being of our children are guided by a clear philosophy in a systematic way.
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