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Ears Wide Open

Learning to listen to children and young people experiencing domestic abuse in Scotland

From the UNCRC to the Scottish Government and local government policy, we have clear international, national and local commitments to listen to children and young people about issues and decisions which affect their lives.

Participation creates opportunities for individuals to have a say in what kind of services they receive and in wider decisions that are likely to impact their lives – such as new legislation and policies. It’s grounded in the recognition that people are the expert on their own lives.

Supporting children to know their rights and to participate in service development and local and national policy is no longer an optional extra. It’s not enough just to have human rights; children must also be able to exercise them.

Translating this rhetoric into meaningful action within the current climate of significant cuts to frontline services is more challenging than ever. And yet it is more important than ever too. There is not one single voice of children and young people who experience domestic abuse in Scotland. There are many. And there are many which are not being heard.

For children and young people experiencing domestic abuse the expectation to just ‘make your voice heard’ doesn’t recognise the fear, control, and trauma they live with. Overcoming the barriers to having a voice, being heard and being involved in decisions affecting their lives requires from adults a commitment of time, resources and an unshakable valuing of children’s rights to participate.

Whilst participation is becoming increasingly important to funders and policy makers it has long been a core value in how Women’s Aid services are shaped and delivered. Scottish Women’s Aid and Women’s Aid groups across Scotland have a rich history of empowering children and young people experiencing domestic abuse to participate in designing services and lobbying for change.

Through sharing our learning from direct work with children and young people experiencing domestic abuse in Scotland, we hope to inspire and equip professionals to keep their ears wide open, and most importantly not just to listen but to respond.