Participation and Collaboration for Action (PANDA)
Queen’s University is represented by School of SSESW Social Work academics Karen Winter and Paul McCafferty in an innovative international partnership project arising from a UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on shared decision-making for all groups. Entitled Participation and Collaboration for Protection (PANDA), the project promotes the participation of young children (aged 12 and under) in child welfare decision-making in a transnational context by collating and disseminating learning materials for social workers, managers, policy officers and trainers in order to strengthen their collaboration with young children involved in child welfare/child protection services.
The global definition of social work notes that human rights principles are central to the profession and, with much attention given to social work and children’s rights, there has been progress nationally and internationally. However, the participation rights of young children (12 and under) remain an ongoing concern as professionals across Europe experience shared difficulties and barriers regarding implementation. With much learning to be had between countries to secure an inclusive society for all children regarding their involvement in decision-making, PANDA aims to:
- Increase the competence of social workers/professionals.
- Support organisations to create the conditions for participatory social work with young children.
- Provide a framework for policy officers and managers to support the implementation of a participatory approach to social work; and
- Provide trainers of post-initial training, to teach new tools and methods.
Eight partners (managers, policy officers, academics and trainers) from Belgium, Spain, Norway and the UK (through Queen’s University) are working together. Guided by an Advisory Board bringing in the voice of the child, all project outputs will be co-designed in cooperation with stakeholders and offer an integrated approach to enhancing knowledge, skills, values and practice in collaborating with young children. Paul and Karen attended a meeting in Ghent, Belgium in November with academic and agency partners from Spain, Norway and Belgium (pictured). They were joined by Alicia Toal, Chief Executive of Voice of Young People in Care, who will partner Queen’s in the project.
The project will create outputs hosted in an online platform comprising a media library for all stakeholders, a framework for management and policy officers and a toolkit for trainers. The media library will reflect the principles, targets and goals of SDG16 and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and will offer: methods and tools for social workers to use in their interactions with children; podcasts of interviews and testimonials; vimeos explaining methods and tools; reports on the explored practices; and participants’ reflections on the new methods.
The new framework will have substantial impact, enabling managers and policy officers to develop implementation strategies for new models of participative social work in child welfare/protection services. It will provide guidance for managers in the supervision and appraisal of their staff, helping to create the conditions for their staff to work in more participatory ways through collaborative approaches with young children. The toolkit will include vimeos demonstrating methods and tools in use with young children and challenging situations in collaborating with them, as well as exercises that stimulate self-reflection.
The project will reach hundreds of people by hosting multiplier events and three transnational learning events once a year in Belgium, Norway and the UK (through Queen’s). Regional innovative methods will be explored, with subsequent training provided. New practices will be co-produced. Between the transnational learning events, regional peer learning sessions will disseminate and experiment in individual countries.
Karen Winter commented: “In light of the recent tragic deaths of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson, never has it been more important to listen to the voice of children. This project will enhance not only our understanding of challenges and enablers to children’s participation, but it will provide a policy framework and a practical set of tools to increase children’s participation in the decisions that affect their lives.”
Paul McCafferty added: “The Social Work colleagues in SSESW are immensely proud to be a main partner in this international project which will help practitioners and policy makers throughout Europe as they strive to increase the participation rights of children. The work will build on the research Karen Winter and I have already completed and cement the successful collaboration we have with our community partner, Voice of Young People in Care.”