Using a Capabilities approach to grow children’s voices and their role in decision making

Following initial work with stakeholders to understand the local context and explore barriers and enablers to children’s wellbeing, the our team discovered a concern that children’s voices were not being listened to:

“Children and young people always get the raw deal and decisions are always made for them and not with them.”

“… their voices are swept under the carpet by adults who think they know better … regardless of whatever the child has said, the adult still knows better so we need to try and raise some of those voices up.”


Exploring and understanding the priorities of children and young people is the most important step in creating a framework built with their voices, and that allows children and young people to participate in decisions that concern them.

At Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland (CNS), we have worked with local primary schools and a youth project over six months, with the aim of co-producing a framework of goals and aspirations with children and young people.

This work has taken place with focus groups of ten young people from the youth group and each school, followed by training to help each participant become a co-researcher within CNS. The young researchers are now carrying out interviews with their peers in the school to increase and extend the number of voices represented, and the reach of our work.

We use the capabilities approach to enable groups to articulate goals, barriers and enablers to wellbeing. To date, the ‘top 5’ priorities for the children and young people involved are shown in the table below:

1 Lifespan: To be able to live a life of full length
2 Education: To be able to participate in learning, both formal and informal
3 Standard of Living: To have sufficient income, adequate housing and access to food and clothing
4 Health: To be able to enjoy good physical and mental health
5 Play: To be able to play and enjoy yourself, both inside and outside

This framework will continue to evolve as we gather additional data.  The priority areas will be combined with those generated by stakeholders who work with children and young people to create shared goals for the neighbourhood. It will set the agenda for key areas of work and action for CNS in the community.