Health and social care watchdogs fail to involve children

Local health and social care watchdogs are dominated by the elderly and are failing to engage children and young people, according to latest National Children’s Bureau (NCB) research.

The charity surveyed 52 of the 150 Local Involvement Networks (Links) and found just four actively involved children and young people in decision-making. This included having young people as members of a sub-committee or panel.

Only 10 ran targeted consultations and campaigns aimed at children and young people, and just 15 of those surveyed said they sent them leaflets or information.

The research, which also involved in-depth interviews with Links workers, found the dominance of elderly members skews their work towards issues affecting this age group. It also means the times, locations and agendas of meetings effectively exclude children.

Some workers even reported they believed working with children and young people was outside their official remit.

Links are set to be replaced by local HealthWatch bodies, under plans outlined in the Health and Social Care Bill.

NCB is concerned these new bodies will repeat Links’ mistakes and children and young people will continue to be ignored in many areas.

Examples of good practice cited in the study include Links working with local youth parliament members to draft questionnaires for young people.

The report also found that “timing meetings and activities to suit children and young people was said to be key, such as outside school hours and fitting around other fixed commitments such as exams”.