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‘Participation for Protection’ (P4P) is a European Commission funded project aimed at enhancing child-centred approaches and rights-based supports and treatments for children and young people who experience violence, and for those who work with them to better understand their needs.

The project, led by Dr Siobhan McAlister, Centre for Children’s Rights at Queen’s University Belfast included partners from Austria; Belgium; Germany; the Republic of Ireland; Romania; and the UK. Partners included representatives from: Babes-Bolyai University; Children’s Rights Knowledge Centre (KeKi); Include Youth; KU Leuven Institute of Criminology (LINC); Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights; RheinMain University of Applied Science; UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, NUIG; University of Nottingham.

The Centre for Children’s Rights at Queen’s University Belfast, under the directorship of Professor Laura Lundy, has pioneered an innovative methodology for conducting rights-based participatory research with children - 'The Lundy Model' (based on four key concepts - Space, Voice, Audience and Influence).

P4P is an excellent example of The Lundy Model in practice as it developed child-informed training and resources for children and young people, and professionals, focussed on what really matters to children who have experienced violence. The resources build the capacity of children who have experienced violence to claim their rights and also builds the capacity of professionals to fulfil their obligations to the children they work with.

P4P consulted with over 1300 children and young people, aged 8-18 years, across the partner countries regarding their views on what constitutes harm, what helps in terms of disclosure and what makes for good service responses. Consultations involved children in schools, and specific groups at risk of, or already experiencing violence, including: children in care; children in detention/ in conflict with the law; Roma or Traveller children; children living in high conflict communities; child migrants and refugees; children with experience of domestic violence; and children who identify as LGBTQ+.

Importantly, two children and young people’s advisory groups, based in Northern Ireland, were recruited from St Ita’s Primary School, Include Youth’s Give and Take Programme and Newstart Education Centre. They informed key aspects of the project such as developing consultation tools to use with other children and young people, and interpreting the data to draw out key messages from the consultations that provided a framework for the training programme.

The project originated from the belief that while there may be training resources for trainees and professionals who work with children experiencing violence, or at risk of violence, these are often developed by adults and hence from an adult perspective. The P4P team wanted to understand from children’s perspectives: what constituted violence; what might act as barriers to disclosing violence and seeking support; what constituted useful support; and how professionals could better respond to their needs.

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