Engaging children and young people - an introduction

The RCPCH Children & Young People's engagement team work to ensure that the voice of children, young people (CYP) and families is making a difference in child health and healthcare. We actively involve CYP across the UK and support healthcare professionals to engage, to find out what CYP want for their health and from their healthcare.

The RCPCH CYP engagement team:

  1. Supports and educates healthcare professionals on how to effectively engage CYP in their local healthcare setting to find out how to improve their care and to collaborate on improvements in their care. This is through the engagement collaborative, engagement committee, direct project support and via the educational resources included on these web pages. 

  2. Through the RCPCH &Us program of work we work with CYP across the UK to help influence and shape policy and practice through roadshows, workshops and supporting CYP to lead their own projects.

How to contact us:

Email: and_us@rcpch.ac.uk

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Emma Sparrow, Head of CYP Engagement team introduces how to engage CYP in your safety and quality improvement projects in this short video:

What is CYP engagement?

Engagement AKA  Involvement, Voice, PPI, PPIE, PPE, PPV, Participation, ​Co-design, ​Co-production etc etc...

There are lots of different terms for describing CYP engagement but in essence it is about enabling the meaningful participation of CYP in "opportunities to form and express their views and to influence matters that concern them" (UNICEF, 2017). This means ensuring that children have the ability and opportunity to understand and influence decisions that affect them.

Engaging children is about ensuring children's fundamental right to be heard in line with article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 12 states that children have the right to freely express their views on matters that affect them and adults have the responsibility to listen and consider children's views. This is not a gift, but a right, and extends to both individual and collective decision making. 

In order that their voices are heard, CYP need information in accessible forms, time and space in which to express what matters to them. Whilst we cannot implement every child's ideas it is vital to take their views seriously. They should be informed about what decisions have been made, why and how their views were taken into consideration. Participation is a fundamental right of every child and we should endeavour to involve them in implementing their ideas and views through active engagement (i.e. working together with CYP to 'produce' an outcome) in improvement projects, service shaping and wider areas of their healthcare journey.

How does engagement actually work?

Our model of CYP engagement has 4 elements: educate, collaborate, engage and change. These words were chosen by RCPCH &Us in 2016 to explain the way that we do our work in different stages. 

When undertaking engagement work we need to think about: 

  1. Why this is the right thing to do?
  2. How it will make a difference​?
  3. What we need to do to be successful?

During an engagement activity we think equal attention should be paid to the agenda of CYP, the agenda that has driven the engagement (e.g. from a service/adult initiated request) and to having fun and building skills. It is also vital to consider safeguarding responsibilities and the provision of follow-up support for any issues raised by the engagement activity.  Activities will support article 12 (voice in decisions) article 24 (best health/healthcare) and article 31 (rest, relax and play) by using this approach. 

Please see our 'How to' section for more information about how to effectively and safely run engagement work and please contact us for support at and_us@rcpch.ac.uk.


RCPCH &Us is our network for children, young people, parents and carers. We actively seek and share their views to shape policy and practice.

We work with CYP from different ages, backgrounds, experiences and locations for a diverse set of voices, which include voices from the following groups: 

  • Universal: All children and young people (e.g. school, club)  
  • Experienced: Children and young people who share common experiences (e.g. specialist education centre, hospital youth forum, young carers, forums focusing on different experiences or identities)  
  • Specialist: Children and young people with current healthcare experience (e.g. visiting them at a cancer treatment centre, asthma clinic)  

Children and young people need everyone who is involved in the work of the College and the child health sector to protect and promote their rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Services need to meet their needs through active engagement. Our staff, teams and members will therefore involve children and young people meaningfully in developing and delivering College priorities.  

Children and young people are central to our work, driving everything we do. They make a difference by working with us and our community of members to shape policy and advocacy, inform education, training and practice, and develop quality improvement programmes. The children and young people involved in turn develop skills for life, enabling them to make a lasting difference.  

We will continue to lead the way in involving CYP in our work, acting as a role model for others. We will challenge assumptions about what children and young people can do and where they should participate. We will continue to place them at the heart of our community, listening and responding to their ideas, and create accessible, aspirational, and meaningful opportunities for them to change the world they live in.  

We will amplify CYP voices and rights within child health through consultation and engagement programmes, empowering them to inform, influence and shape better care and better outcomes.

Our approach 

Our approach  incorporates a mixed methods model, from micro-volunteering in clinic chats (5-10 minutes involvement) where children and young people can share their experiences to help inform policy or processes, through to one-off taster sessions (2-3 hours) or via regular projects that meet frequently through the course of the programme. Every piece of work where children and young people’s insight, input and support are required, needs to have a bespoke engagement plan, which considers the different needs, interests and models of delivery that works best for those involved. This will ensure engagement meets both the needs of the group and the service, whilst retaining a rights-based approach, and always remembering to make it fun and developmental for the young people involved.

Our work includes projects, events, activities and sharing news to educate, collaborate, engage and change services for the better. The RCPCH &Us Network includes: 

  • RCPCH &Us News through our social media channels and eNewsletter 
  • Roadshows across the UK to find out what children and young people from all ages and backgrounds think about child health topics 
  • Challenges bringing together groups of children, young people and/or parents and carers for the day to work together on a topic, review the Roadshow information and come up with ideas
  • Projects where children, young people and families get involved over a longer time to work on turning ideas into outputs and outcomes, developing new solutions to challenges 
  • RCPCH &Us Academy: our offer to CYP with training, mentoring, support and a range of nationally recognised awards, accreditations and qualifications recognising their voluntary activity and skill development

Since we started in 2015, over 9000 children, young people and family members programmes volunteered 1000s hours on projects and activities each year, looking at experiences with long term conditions such as epilepsy or health policy areas like indoor air quality, even reviewing evidence and writing their own recommendations and responses on topics like COVID-19, on what keeps children and young people healthy, happy or well or their needs for the work force of the future.

There are lots of different ways you can get involved, from volunteering online as a one off or joining a regular project. Get in touch to find out more! 

Voice Matters Leaflet (PDF)  

Engagement Collaborative 

What is this? The Engagement Collaborative is our network of child health and healthcare professional with an interest in engagement who share guidance, resources, and updates about how to increase involvement of children and young people in strategic decision-making and co-production in health care 

Who is it for? For trainees, paediatricians, healthcare professionals and staff in the wider child and youth sector with a role or interest in working with children and young people and involving them in strategic decision making.  

How will it help me? Free eNewsletters including the latest research, best practice, funding and news about participation and engagement in child health services. The newsletter will provide strategic and legislative guidance on CYP engagement. It will give you access to CYP voice to inform your practice. It will contain links to toolkits and training that supports you in your engagement work. 

  • free resources to support engagement of children and young people 
  • coaching and engagement planning support 
  • access to training 
  • organisations can also commission the team to deliver engagement activity in their settings 

Why was it created? The UNCRC mandates states to support children and young people's active involvement in decisions that affect them, individually and collectively under article 12. The Engagement Collaborative was created to support healthcare settings to achieve this.

SIgn up to Engagement Collaborative

Children and Young People's Engagement Committee

The Children and Young People's Engagement Committee was established in 2016 to bring together children, young people, parents, carers and paediatricians to support the development of active participation and involvement of under 25s in RCPCH. 

Who is on the committee?

There are 20 core roles on the committee: 

  • 10 young people 
  • 6 parent/carers 
  • 6 paediatricians including the Assistant Registrar (chair) 
  • 2 sector reps (charity, medical students) 

We also have visitors at our meetings, including children, young people, parents/carers, paediatricians or other interested stakeholders. The committee is supported by the Children and Young People's Engagement Team at the College, and chaired by the Assistant Registrar.  

What are the priorities of the committee? 

The committee did a huge amount of work over the first work plan, producing a number of new resources, increasing the reach of RCPCH &Us at the Annual Conference and supporting many RCPCH work programmes with their voice and insight. They have now set the next work plan priorities for 2021-23 which are:  

  • Supporting services to involve children and young people in assessing and shaping services 
  • Develop an engagement ambassador programme 
  • Informing and shaping internal an external programmes of work through expert advice and guidance on engagement

When does it meet? 

The committee meets six times a year on a Saturday, with the meeting being delivered through a workshop format. 

We meet in person, as a hybrid meeting and sometimes online only, but meetings are always fun, interactive and creative. 

I feel far more empowered, valued through new way of engaging with governance at the RCPCH. I feel that it is far more impactful and we get more achieved. It's all about what gets done rather than what we just talk about! Results! Not just hot air!

Committee member

See the committee page for more info