Posted: 25 July 2011

The most important question to ask a young person

Our research into well-being has revealed a great deal about how children and young people view the world they live in and how they experience life. The evidence that comes from children is through a well tested online survey that asks children to reflect on a series of simple but provoking questions.

We use a version of this survey in communities that host our Good Childhood Conversations. It is a way of bringing their views and experiences into the heart of discussions amongst adults in neighbourhoods and communities about how things can be improved for children.

Good Childhood Conversations

Recently, I was running one of the Good Childhood Conversations in a community where we had 214 children and young people take part in the survey. I wanted to test out the results with young people attending the Conversation to hear their views and get a better picture of the findings. One curious result was that 8% thought that adults in their area didn’t listen to their views while nearly a third simply said they didn’t know.

When I asked young people at the Conversation to explain this result one young person explained that he didn’t know if adults listened because 'no one has ever asked me for my views'.

We have a long history of putting the voice and experience of children at the heart of what we do. But we still find many circumstances where children and young people are not asked to say what they feel or for their opinion. This is frustrating for children who have much to say, and it is potentially damaging for children who are vulnerable.

In our runaways campaign we are calling on local authorities, government and statutory agencies to do more to protect children who run away and to pay more attention to those children who repeatedly run away.

In our practice we know that the most important question to ask a child who repeatedly runs away is 'what’s wrong?' It’s a big question to ask, and it takes a lot for a child to answer truthfully and with hope that things will change if they speak out. We know how to ask the right questions, we just need to know that we are supported in our response.

Jim Davis, Good Childhood Adviser, The Children's Society