Working with young people

The above video is an extract from an interview with Darren Jenkinson, in which he discusses working with young people. He touches on a number of issues, including ones we deal with on this page.


Youth participation and voice

Participation  and voice are key values for most community radio organisations.  Youth voice is an increasingly used term across education and other services.  As we said in the ‘training approaches’ section it is important to work with and from young people’s concerns, needs and pleasures.  In order to do this it is essential to value and listen to their ideas and opinions, understand their attitudes and existing knowledge and find out about what they enjoy doing.


Adult roles in youth participation

There is often so much talk about ‘giving young people a voice’ that we forget young people will also need support and encouragement in order to achieve thier best.

When working to enable youth participation it can be difficult to make decisions about your own role as an adult. How much support do young people need?  What kind of support? When is it best to leave them to make their own mistakes?



Photo: Recording a debate in Fulwood Academy, Preston. The pupils have already got to an advanced point; the trainers are there to give support and guidance where and when needed.


Degrees of involvement

Think carefully about your motives before you begin any training or activity with young people.  Many models exist that help to design and evaluate young people’s participation.  Popular models include the following:


Hart’s (1992) ladder of participation

In this model the lowest (non participatory) rungs involve forms of manipulation, decoration or tokenism where young people do not have significant roles and are actively exploited for adult agendas.  In higher rungs people may take on information giving roles within adult initiated projects or ‘consultation’ work.  The highest rungs suggest shared decision making on adult initiated projects, projects initiated or directed by young people with support from adults , or youth initiated projects with shared decision making. The model has proved useful for organisations to assess the place of young people in the work that they do.

Hart's Ladder of participation

Adapted from:


Shier’s (2001) Pathways to participation

This model is a useful source that foregrounds the role of adults in supporting young people’ participation work .  It is particularly useful for the purposes of staff development.

Shier Pathways to Participation

From Shier (2006) ‘Pathways to Participation Revisited’.

Flutter and Rudduck’s  (2004) model for student voice

This model was designed to support work in schools where young people act as researchers.  It is helpful for thinking about how you might involve young people in helping you to collect evidence or conduct other research projects for you.



4 Young people as fully active participants and co-researchers: young people and adults jointly initiate enquiry, students play an active role in decision making along with teachers and they plan action in the light of data and review the impact of the intervention.

3 Young people as researchers: young people are involved in enquiry and have an active role in decision making; there will be feedback and discussion with students regarding findings drawn from the data.

2Young people as active participants:Adults initiate enquiry and interpret the data.  Young people are taking some role in the decision making; there is lifely to be some feedback to pupils on the findings drawn from the data

1 Listening to young people: Students are seen as a data source; adults respond to the data but students are not involved in the discussion of findings; there will be no feedback to young people, adults act on data.

0 Young people not consulted: there is no element of participation or consultation in evidence gathering and documentation


Child protection

By law, anyone who intends to work with  children or vulnerable adults (such as adults with learning or other disabilities) must first go through a criminal records check process. This used to be known as a CRB check (undertaken by the Criminal Records Bureau), but is now managed by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), following the merging of the Criminal Records Bureau and Independent Safeguarding Authority in December 2012.

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is an agency of the Home Office. A DBS check is known as a ‘Disclosure’, of which there are two ‘grades’: ‘Standard’ and ‘Enhanced’. Any adult in the UK who wants to do unsupervised work with children or vulnerable adults must first be cleared by the DBS. In the past, background checks tended to be conducted on a local level. The newer checks are considered to be more comprehensive. If you have already had CRB clearance, this should still be valid as a DBS check – but it is up to each employer to assess the validity of an existing CRB check, and all organisations employing a new person (or in a new capacity) will normally carry out a DBS check even if the individual already has CRB/DBS clearance.

As an organisation employing adults to work with young people you will be responsible for initiating their DBS check.   Usually, each organisation conducts their own DBS check and it is generally not thought to be sufficient to accept a check that has been carried out by another organisation. So, for example, if someone already has a DBS check to work in their local school you will still need to conduct a DBS check for your organisation.  It makes sense to designate one person as the DBS checker in your organisation and, of course, they should have their own DBS check.

If you are self-employed, you cannot apply for a DBS check as an individual, though a self-employed person can apply for a DBS check by registering with an agency.

It can be difficult to know where to draw the line in getting DBS checks.  For example should all adults volunteering at the station who might come into contact with young people be DBS checked?

The DBS system is not without its flaws. Unfortunately, it is still possible for people who are dangerous to get ‘clearance’. Similarly, if you are wrongly convicted of something this conviction will show up on your record and you will be assumed to be guilty. (See below for further information on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974).

For more information contact the Disclosure and Barring Service on 0870 90 90 811 or see more info on the DBS website.


What are the benefits?

Here’s another snippet from Darren Jenkinson discussing what young people can get out of community radio.