Child rights in a child friendly Leeds

This blog was originally written and published for the UNICEF website at https://blogs.unicef.org.uk/2016/06/09/child-friendly-city-leeds/

Leeds is one of UNICEF’s Child Rights Partners. The city has been working with Unicef UK since 2013 to embed children’s rights in its public services, focussing on services for children leaving care. This partnership with Unicef UK is supporting the city to meets its ambition to become “Child Friendly Leeds”. In this blog Andy Lloyd, who leads the Unicef UK work at the council, writes about why children’s rights are central to their Child Friendly City work.

Leeds has a vision to become the best city in the UK by 2030 for everyone, including for the thousands of children and young people who live here today. Transforming Leeds into a child friendly city is about improving outcomes for all our younger citizens and making our city the best one for children and young people to grow up in.  To achieve this, we are asking the whole city to engage with our Child Friendly Leeds initiative – from the council to schools, businesses, organisations and the community; only together can we build a city that truly has children and young people at its heart and Child Friendly Leeds is the thread that brings all this work together.

Our commitment to being the best city for children and young people is founded on the global Child Friendly Cities movement developed by Unicef, and is guided locally by the voices of children and young people who live, study and work in Leeds. We know that we cannot be a child friendly city if children and young people don’t have a voice – and more importantly  if their voice has no influence over key decisions that affect them. Our collaboration with Unicef UK as a Child Rights Partner has been central to this. Child Rights Partners is about applying a child rights-based approach to our local authority’s policies and practice.  The approach ensures that we are mindful at all times of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and that young people’s voices have influence in our planning and decision-making.

Leeds' cityscape by Space2, Allerton CE Primary and Leeds Beckett University Leeds’ cityscape created by children from Allerton CE Primary school in Leeds, in partnership with Leeds Beckett University Art, graphic design students and arts and health charity Space2. It was inspired by the children’s hopes and dreams.

Children and young people have played a key role in the development of Child Friendly Leeds. They’ve helped to identify priorities for our council’s Children and Young People’s Plan, choose the logo and recruit the staff who lead on the programme. Children also report on child friendly news to the local media and at high profile events.  Child Friendly Leeds Young Advisors play a key role in helping to plan and deliver many of our events, as do all our youth voice groups and programmes, including Care Leavers Council, Children in Care Council, UK Youth Parliament, Leeds Youth Council and Leeds Children’s Mayor. Our Youth Parliament and Leeds Children’s Mayor were elected a few months ago – over 13,000 children and young people voted in their elections. Hundreds of young people will also participate in youth voice summits this year; these summits enable decision makers, elected members and Child Friendly Leeds partner organisations to work together with children and young people to tackle priority issues.

We’re proud to be one of the five local authorities that is piloting this exciting Unicef programme in the UK. Here in Leeds, we decided to first focus on ensuring that children who are preparing to or have already left care have access to the very best services, ones where their rights are a central consideration. To date Unicef UK has run training for our corporate parents (those in the council responsible for all our looked-after and care experienced children and young people) and also for our 13+ social work teams who work directly with care leavers, to support them to put children’s rights at the heart of what they do in their everyday work.

Being one of Unicef UK’s Child Rights Partners councils is central to our child friendly city work; clearly a child friendly city has to be a city where children’s rights are promoted and respected.

Get more news like this in your inbox by signing up to our Child Rights Partners newsletter. Find out more about Child Rights Partners and our partner local authorities. Read about the global Child Friendly Cities initiative.

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Andy Lloyd is the Head of Children’s Workforce Development in Leeds Children’s Services and leads on the council’s partnership with Unicef UK. He qualified as a Social Worker in 1991 and has worked in a number of different settings since then including at Leeds Trinity University. @AndyWLloyd

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