Editorial – A Child-Friendly Community

F_R_OM_-ogoAt a meeting of MidCentral District Health Board this month I had a ‘eureka’ moment when I learned about the ‘Leeds Child Friendly City’.

Led by the Leeds City Council in England, this policy puts the child at the centre of all decisions. It recognises the rights and role of children and young people and has included other state agencies, schools, health professional all working together to a common goal. The city council in its policy says:

‘Our vision for Leeds is to be a child friendly city. As part of this vision we will minimise the effects of poverty. Our vision contributes to the wider vision for Leeds – by 2030 Leeds will be locally and nationally recognised as the best city in the UK. We will drive change by using restorative practice, cluster and locality working and by extending the voice and influence of children and young people. The child is at the centre of everything we do. We have a relentless focus on improved outcomes.’

It is a dedicated, focused and compelling social movement that has captivated Leeds, its citizens and its kids. In a child friendly city the children are the active agents, their voices and opinions are taken into consideration and influence decisions. It encourages children to become more responsible citizens.

It aims for children and young people to:

  •  be able to make safe journeys and easily travel around the city independently
  •  be able to express their views, feel heard and be actively involved
  •  be able to access jobs, work experience and education and reduce the number of kids not doing any of these things
  •  improve school attendances
  •  become healthier, more active
  •  encourage all agencies and stakeholders to be part of the movement.

It is a simple message that provides for 5 outcomes, 12 priorities and 17 key indicators and 3 obsessions! These are:

Outcomes : safe from harm, do well at all levels of learning and have the skills for life, choose healthy lifestyles, have fun growing up, are active citizens who feel they have a voice and influence.

Priorities: helping children to live in safe and supportive families, improve behaviour, attendance and achievement, and increase numbers in employment, education or training

Obsessions: number of children looked after, school attendances – primary / secondary, percentage of young people not in employment, education or training
This initiative has motivated MidCentral’s health professionals who went on a study tour to Leeds

So I have a challenge for our community, our police, our schools, our health agencies, the Otaki Community Board and the Kapiti Coast District Council. ‘Can we start a similar movement here and have the safety of our kids at the centre of all our decisions?’

Ann Chapman