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Is Anyone Listening? The Impact of Children’s Participation on Public Policy

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Children’s participation has attracted a great deal of attention from academics, policy-makers and practitioners over the past 25 years. This article presents findings from research into the impacts on policy-making from such participation by children in Wales, within the United Kingdom, and Tamil Nadu, in India. The paper considers how the dominant objectives for children’s participation in the UKcontext can be seen to be helping to ensure that new structures set up to facilitate children’s participation such as youth forums and school councils, have been much more about providing opportunities for children to practice “good” citizenship than about children’s voices being heard and acted upon. This approach is compared with a more “bottom-up” initiative designed to enable children to participate in public decision-making in rural villages in south India. In Tamil Nadu’s Neighbourhood Children’s Parliaments, children aged 6–17 have successfully brought about what they consider to be significant improvements in their living environment. The reasons for these differences are explored and consideration given to some of the factors that work as enablers and inhibitors in children’s voices not only being heard by policy makers and service providers but also being taken into account and given due weight. The paper continues with a discussion on these findings, exploring the extent to which children’s participation may be seen as a means of empowerment or social control and makes some tentative comparisons between experiences in India and Wales before concluding with some thoughts on policy and practice implications. The term children is used throughout the paper to refer to people under the age of 18 years.

Affiliations: 1: Childhood Research Group, Cardiff University, Wales, UK,


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