Children should be seen and heard

Jo discusses how she worked with NICE to ensure voices of vulnerable children were taken on board for the new abuse and neglect guideline

Jo Sharpen, Policy Manager, Against Violence and Abuse (AVA)

Children suffering from abuse and neglect often feel isolated and too afraid to speak out.

At ‘Against Violence and Abuse’ (AVA) we work hard to provide an environment children and young people feel safe in. We encourage them to share their experiences and work with us so we can better support them, and others like them.

When NICE contacted us about the guidance they were producing on child abuse and neglect we were keen to work with them to ensure the voices of those who have suffered were heard.

We recruited a group of young people affected by abuse, telling them that their thoughts and experiences were going to help inform the NICE guidance. That guidance would then be used by professionals to help other children in the same situations.

At first, many found it hard to believe that their views would be taken seriously. Experiencing abuse and trauma can leave people assuming their opinions are worthless.

Eventually, bravely and eloquently, they provided key information to us and NICE.

The group emphasised the need for people working with children to be trained to spot the warning signs so that they could start the conversations that need to happen. And they stressed the importance for professionals to establish trust so that the children felt safe enough to tell people what was happening to them.

These discussions have helped to shape some of the NICE recommendations.

For example, the guidance gives clear examples of how to identify the warning signs that could indicate something is wrong. And it says that staff should make sure children understand they’re being listened to and are comfortable.

The care we provide is more likely to be effective when it is based on lessons learnt from a real life situation. Therefore, it is crucial to involve the views of those who are affected in our national guidelines.

NICE recognises this, and I believe that this guidance truly reflects the views and needs of those children we need to reach.  

Blog comments

  • This is an excellent example of NICE taking the initiative to protect, support and act to enable children to be listened to and taken seriously. This is fundamental to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and again in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) which include the children and young people discussed here.
    Children - all of us - really do have the Right to be Heard.
    That includes people with dementia who are listened to by NICE but not by others who go through the motions because it's politically correct

  • If I can help a child, young person or adult I would be happy to do so. I was bullied so badly at school and it's still with me now aged 56.
    But I have done so much with my life. If I can support anyone please contact me.

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