Engaging children and young people - how to do it

Engaging with children and young people means that we seek out their thoughts, feelings, ideas, concerns and expectations around health and healthcare, and then work collaboratively to create a healthcare service that meets their needs. Here we provide a 'how-to' guide for how to meaningfully and effectively engage with children and young people with the aim of making local and strategic healthcare improvements.
How to write a Children and Young People's Engagement Plan

Engagement needs to be planned to ensure that you effectively capture the voice of children, young people and families  These resources provides practical advice on creating a plan for CYP engagement which will enable you to engage effectively, including 21 ideas on how you can develop children and young people's engagement in your setting. We aim to empower you to keep the needs and rights of children and young people at the centre of their thoughts when designing and delivering healthcare.

Engagement 101

Visit  QI central to complete a e-learning module on CYP engagement

How to write a children and young people’s engagement plan 

This how-to-guide has been created to support your thinking around engagement and capturing the voice of children, young people and families to help shape health policy and practice. 

The questions below support you to shape your thinking around an engagement offer for your organisation or service, and to develop a process that is meaningful and beneficial for all. 

The offer will have a number of components based on your local processes. It will include understanding the why (strategic plan), getting to the detail (operational plan) and finding out the voice (engagement plan). 

Once you have your basic plan in place, you can use project planning tools within your organisations to create your engagement project. This can be referred to as 'strategic voice', creating an evidence base for change to inform decision makers through a collective voice of service users. Within this are the individual stories of young patients which will be shared, giving you a real insight into their experiences. 

Why engagement? 

Answer these four initial questions to begin to shape your engagement bigger picture. 

  1. Why we want to engage and involve children, young people and their families… 
  2. How their engagement will make a difference to the bigger picture and the individual experience… 
  3. What will we do to engage in an active, supportive and positive way… 
  4. What we want to find out… 

Getting the detail 

Use these topics headers to start to plan out some of the questions, areas for consideration, resources and elements that you need to have in place before you begin work on your engagement offer. 

  • Outcomes for engagement (direct and indirect benefits of doing this work) 
  • Outputs of engagement (measurable products or targets that will be achieved through this work) 
  • Actions that need to take place (the what, when, where of the activity) 
  • Resources (physical, social, emotional) 
  • Safer working practices (consent, staffing, risk assessments, safeguarding, inclusive and accessible approaches) 
  • Timescales for design, delivery and monitoring 
  • Identifying the right people (children, young people and families, internal and external decision makers, target groups/ages) 
  • Engaging at the right time (seasons, hour of the day, cultural celebrations taking place, health intervention) 

Listening to the voice 

Once you have identified the main elements of your engagement programme, you need to write your engagement plan, which brings together your engagement tools and methods to capture the voice. 

This can be delivered in a range of different ways including: 

  • Face-to-face: individual or group work, events, workshops, sessions, conversations, project-based, particpation games and activities
  • Online: eSurveys, submit your story, digital artwork, online group meetings, online flipcharts
  • Paper based: questionnaires/feedback forms, artwork

It is important that you look to engage a representative group of children, young people and/or families to meet the outcomes for your engagement offer. You will need to consider geographical location, age group, ethnicity, disability, health care experience and other backgrounds that you may wish to actively involve to ensure their voice is involved and has influence. 

You will need to think about how you best support children, young people and families to engage and will need to consider safer working practices. You may need to identify resources to provide support workers, interpreters and play specialists. You may also need to think about incentives such as food and travel and about appropriate venues for the engagement activity. 

Our Recipes for Engagement booklet has a number of engagement activities that can be adapted to support discussion and capturing the voice of children and young people. 

Once you have engaged children, young people and families and listened to their voice, you will need to act on it, working on how the voice will make a difference to health policy and practice. Involving children, young people and families in this stage is also important to ensure there is clarity of meaning in understanding experiences and voice. 

Sharing your story 

A vital part of engagement is in sharing the learning and findings and keeping stakeholders informed throughout the journey. 

Remember to include direct stakeholders (children, young people, families, decision makers) and indirect stakeholders (friends, colleagues, service users not directly involved in the programme) in communications about your engagement offer. They may have ideas, resources, contacts or be able to support as well as benefit from the outputs and outcomes. 

Next steps 

Our Engagement Collaborative offers information, advice and support for practitioners who are developing or leading engagement to improve the voice of children, young people and families in child health and health care. Once you sign up you will receive a regular eNewsletter full of news, resources and opportunities for funding and support. 

See our Voices and Choices Action pack for ideas and activities to start discussions within your team about how to work with children and young people to find out what matters to them and include them in service decision making.

Committees: Involving children and young people in committees

What is this?  A resource booklet to enable shared understanding and support best practice when involving CYP in committees. The key themes explored include: 

  • Accessibility and flexibility 
  • Clarity of purpose 
  • Having a clearly defined engagement model 

Why was it created? The voices of children, young people and their families play a key role in influencing the College's work, and help us achieve standards for the best quality in paediatric care. Having a clear and supportive mechanism in place will enable the best possible opportunity for children, young people and parents/carers to join committees, helping to ensure a meaningful experience.  

Who is it for? Healthcare professionals, organisations, wider child and youth sector workforce

How will it help me?  This resource will help you to support CYP to confidently share their voice. A committee-specific engagement plan is vital, as is an engagement plan that is tailored to the child, young person or parent/carer you wish to involve.  

“Parent/carers and young people provide a vital grounding and reality check, often understanding how things are “working” in reality rather than in policies.” RCPCH &Us parent/carer representative

Resource link: 

Involving CYP in Committees

Specialist Commissioning: Involving children and young people in specialised commissioning

What is this? A comprehensive and practical guide to safely and effectively involving children and young people in specialist commissioning. 

Who is it for? Healthcare professionals, organisations and the wider child and youth sector workforce

How will it help me?  This guidance offers advice and tips, much of which comes directly from children and young people that use the services, about how they would like to be involved in Specialised Commissioning procedures. It highlights how children and young people can be engaged directly with Clinical Reference Groups but also looks at many other methods that children and young people have identified for them to have a voice at a strategic level . This is all transferable to the work of integrated care systems and boards, or where you are thinking of significant service change such as with the new hospitals programme. 

Why was it created? CYP have told us how important they think it is that they have a voice about services at the commissioning stage with an inclusive, creative and flexible line of communication with commissioners. The RCPCH aims to empower you to facilitate the inclusion of CYP in your local specialist commissioning.

Involvement 101

Resource link:

Specialist Commissioning

Integrated Care System: Involving children and young people in your integrated care system

This three part resource is for healthcare professionals. It aims to guide and empower you to support meaningful engagement of children and young people within the Integrated Care System, or ICS.

Why was this resource created? The Health and Care Act 2022 legislates for the engagement of babies, children, young people and families in relation to the work of the ICS, ICP (Integrated Care Partnership) and ICB (Integrated Care Board). This includes addressing the needs of under 25s, a duty to consult people to whom services are provided and on the integrated care strategy. Statutory Guidance includes the requirement for ICBs to have an executive lead for children, to champion the needs of under 25s.

This resource was created in June 2022 with RCPCH &Us and the South Yorkshire ICS to help you adhere to this legislation.

Please follow the links for the resources:

We have created a three step information package depending how much you would like to learn:

Snapshot - one-page abstract (PDF) 

Essentials: A 4 page leaflet (PDF)

Deep Dive: All the information (PDF)

Recipes for engagement - the RCPCH &Us handbook

What is this? A booklet with clear descriptions of tried and tested child and young person engagement activities.  

Who is it for? Healthcare professionals and wider child and youth sector staff

How will it help me?  It will give you specific tools and ideas on to run engagement activities with children and young people that will result in a better understanding on their views, ideas and wishes on the topic of your choosing. It also includes a range of evaluation activities either for services or you group work sessions.  

Why was it created? It was created by the CYP engagement team at the RCPCH at the request of the RCPCH members 

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Resource link: 

Recipes for engagement