Academics launch training resource to improve responses to violence against children
A training resource aimed at enhancing child-centred responses to violence against children, co-designed with children and young people, has been launched by academics from Queen’s University Belfast and Include Youth.
The P4P (Participation for Protection) training resource has been informed by the views and experiences of over 1,300 children and young people (aged 8-18 years old) across six EU member states, including Austria; Belgium; Germany; Ireland; Romania; and the UK. The research was carried out through surveys and focus groups.
Children from St Ita’s Primary School in Belfast and young people from Include Youth and Newstart Education Centre in Northern Ireland were advisors on the project. They helped design the survey and identify key messages to inform the training resources.
The resource will help train professionals on children’s understandings of violence; barriers and enablers to disclosure; and what child-rights based responses look like from a child’s perspective. Over 350 professionals and trainees across the six countries have been introduced to the resources through training and teaching events.
The research was led by Dr Siobhan McAlister, Dr Katrina Lloyd, Professor Laura Lundy, Dr Michelle Templeton and Dr Karen Winter from the Centre for Children’s Rights and the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast.
Speaking about the findings from the project and the new training resource, Dr Siobhan McAlister, Project Lead, said: “Adults are often reticent to talk with children about violence. This is because of concern that children are too young to understand such a complex and sensitive issue, or that to talk about it might be upsetting or traumatising. The P4P project is based on the premise that children have a right to be consulted about issues that affect their lives, and that in order to design meaningful child-centred responses to children who experience violence, we must first ascertain their knowledge, views and needs.”
Some key findings from the survey included:
- Children were most likely to say that physical abuse (79 per cent) and sexual abuse (69 per cent) were examples of violence
- Just over one-third (36 per cent) of children thought that neglect was a form of violence/ harm
- When asked what they would do if they experienced violence, under half (48 per cent) said they would tell someone
- Older children were less likely to seek support if experiencing violence – 55 per cent of children, compared to 41 per cent of young people, said they would seek support
- Seven out of ten children thought the best way to get information was to talk to someone personally (72 per cent)
- Only 6 per cent of children felt that websites were the best source of information if experiencing violence.
Some of these issues were explored further in focus groups with children who had experienced violence. These revealed that they may not always recognise some abuses as violence because it is a normal part of their life, and were more ‘accepting’ of violence perpetrated by someone close to them (family or friends).
Children could find it difficult to disclose violence or seek support because they were fearful it would make things worse or disrupt families. Many described negative experiences with professionals who they thought were in a place to protect them.
Some of the children on the advisory group said that it is important for adults to listen to children and thought that their participation in the project was crucial as it was a ‘chance for kids to teach adults about what life is like as a child’. They also commented on the importance of face-to-face support as ‘children can’t talk to a leaflet they need someone to go to and someone who is absorbing of your words’.
Children across all of the countries had similar advice for adults in relation to what they were doing wrong and how they could better support them:
- Give children the space to talk at their own pace
- Listen to children and communicate in a respectful manner
- Keep your promises and don’t give up searching for workable solutions
- Remember that children are affected by your decisions
- Take action, but only with the involvement of children.
Dr Paula Rodgers, Policy Co-ordinator from Include Youth said: “The approach taken towards these resources puts children and young people first. The voices and opinions of children and young people from here and across Europe shaped the findings of this research. The impact of actually involving these groups directly provides a truly authentic learning tool for all professionals working with children and young people.”
Speaking at the launch, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma commented: “This is a ground-breaking piece of work. Not only does it identify the common issues from a variety of countries across Europe but it plots a path to how children can be involved in the most difficult conversations. The project demonstrates that children and young people want to talk about how violence affects them and to be involved in the design of interventions to support them. P4P proves that there is no circumstance that the voice of children and young people do not have a role.”
The P4P Project was a two-year project running from December 2017 to November 2019, funded by the European Commission.