We advocate for the interests, rights and wellbeing of children and young people

There are 1.1 million people in New Zealand under the age of 18: that's a quarter of our population. They are dependent on, and major users of many services, but often have little say in the design and delivery of services that affect them.

Being child-centred means thinking about how your decisions and actions will affect children. Decision-makers need to think actively about potential unintended consequences on children, and to eliminate or mitigate any negative effects.

Being child-centred also means having an understanding of child development. That means allowing for the capacities of children at different ages, and recognising differences in ability or development. What do kids need? outlines different ages and stages of development.

Considering children in decision-making is an important way to uphold children's rights under the the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Children have a right to have a say and their best interests should be the primary factor in decisions that affect them. We are all responsible for keeping children safe and supporting their wellbeing and development.

The information below explains the benefits of considering the needs of children, and examples of how to elevate children's interests in the work of your organisation

Benefits of considering children

It's good for your organisation
  • You can get better, more relevant and responsive policies, services, products and programmes by considering their effects on children
  • Well-designed policies that consider impacts on children can avoid future costs by mitigating or preventing unintended negative consequences that are identified
  • Getting policies, programmes and services right for children often improves them for everyone
  • Demonstrating meaningful consideration of children’s interests has reputational benefits for your organisation
  • By engaging children, as part of the process of considering their needs, you can gain access to their unique ideas, skills and perspectives
It's good for children
  • Avoiding inadvertent negative consequences for children will protect their rights and needs
  • Engaging children in the process can make them feel more capable, confident, included, and responsible, and can increase their sense of belonging in the community, promoting good citizenship, agency and self-advocacy skills
  • Listening to children is an aid to their safety and to child protection (from abuse, neglect, or not having their needs met) 
It's their right
  • Children have the right to have their needs met, through the policies, services and other decisions made by adults
  • Children have the right to express their views freely and for their views to be given due weight; they should be provided opportunities to be heard in matters that affect them
  • The full extent of children's rights are outlined here
It's good for everybody
  • Decisions that elevate child wellbeing can support a cohesive society today and in the future
  • Services that are designed to be accessible to children, inclusive, and use plain English tend to work well for everybody
  • Visibly engaging with children promotes positive attitudes towards children and their involvement in society

 

Elevating children's interests in the work of your organisation

The following examples outline how different organisations might elevate children's interests in their work. Each may have different levels of engagement with children, which is a meaningful process for both children and adults. A feed-back loop in which children can see how much they feel their views have been taken in to account, will demonstrate how well you are elevating children's interests.

1. Children are at the centre of all decisions, actions and practices

2. Children's rights, views and interests inform decision-making

3. Potential impacts on children are identified and considered

Example - a government agency that delivers social work services directly to children and their families sets the goal of putting children at the centre of everything it does. It regularly engages children to inform all policies, practices, and performance indicators.

Example - a NGO is planning a housing campaign. Staff review data about children's housing outcomes and they ask children about their experiences. As a result, the campaign focuses on improving an aspect important to children, but with benefits for everyone.

Example - a local authority wants a child-friendly city, so officials run 'child impact assessments' over all services. As a result they adapt services, e.g. ensuring rubbish trucks steer clear of schools during peak arrival and leaving times of the day.

 

If you are interested in being a child-centred organisation, you can read more in-depth information in "Being child-centred".  There is also a resource page with links to other models of child impact assessment tools and some data sources.

 


Being child-centred

"Being child-centred" is an OCC paper that provides detail about what it means to be child-centred.

The Ministry of Social Development has developed the UNCROC Child Impact Assessment: Best Practice Guideline on how to consider children during decision-making. They also developed a summary page that illustrates simply how to use the tool.

Engaging with children supports children's rights

Engaging with children and young people, providing opportunities for them to have their voices heard, and incorporating their views into our work is a big part of our work and an important way that we can help to ensure children’s rights are upheld.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) identifies the right for children to have an opinion and for that opinion to be heard in all matters affecting the child (article 12) as one of four general principles that underpin all children’s rights. Another general principle of UNCROC is that the best interests of the child should always be a primary consideration (article 3). In most cases it is vital to engage directly with children to help determine what is in their best interests.

UNCROC also guarantees children the right to freedom of expression (article 13) and the right to recreation and participation in cultural life and the arts (article 31).

Read the full UNCROC text