Participation of Children and Young People in Decision-Making: Action Plan 2024-2028

In April 2024, the Participation of Children and Young People Action Plan 2024-2028 was published. You can access this plan at This Action Plan builds on the ambition and achievements of the first National Strategy on Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision-Making to further promote the inclusion of children and young people in decision making at all levels – in the home, in school, in their communities and at national level.

In the following piece, Rachel Dunne Lambe, IAYO’s Youth Participation Officer highlights aspects of the action plan that are of particular relevance to IAYO’s work and the work of many of our member youth orchestras.

IAYO and youth participation in decision-making:

IAYO have long committed to embedding a youth participation in decision-model within our organisation. The word ’embedding’ is key and one that you will find mentioned several times throughout the new Participation of Children and Young People in Decision-Making Action Plan. The word lends itself towards the concept of a process rather than a single step. This action plan, the second national plan on younger people’s participation in decision-making, sets out a series of actions to continue the development of youth participation in decision-making in Ireland and to address some gaps that reviews showed to be present.

Referring to the basics of children and young people’s roles in decision-making, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), as referenced in the plan, defines children and young people’s participation in decision-making as “Ongoing processes, which include information-sharing and dialogue between children and adults based on mutual respect, in which children can learn how their views and those of adults are taken into account and shape the outcome of such processes.”

While the UNCRC is related to those under 18 years of age, it is worth noting that the Irish government “recognises that young people aged 18-24 years may have unique difficulties exercising their rights, including their right to have their voice heard in decision-making processes.” For this reason, that age group are included in the action plan. When we in IAYO refer to youth participation in decision-making, we too, are including both children and young people up to and including 24 years of age. These simple processes are ones that many of us do already with the children and young people we encounter. We may have just not labelled it as ‘youth participation’. While this is not necessarily a problem, when we do put a label on it, it can help us capture the great work being done. It can also help us evaluate our practice.

How are we doing, are there things we could improve, are there new things to try?

Through recognising what youth participation in decision-making is, evaluating how it is working and being willing to give things a go, we move closer to the normalisation of ‘the inclusion of children and young people in decision-making processes so that it is an element of each relevant process’. (pg. 16, Action Plan 2024-2028)

Why is this action plan, and its preceding frameworks and strategies relevant to IAYO and its members?

Firstly, we work with children and young people and they have a recognised right to be involved, in an appropriate manner, in decision-making that impacts them. Secondly, action 1.3 of the plan states: “include the requirement to consult children and young people in funding criteria for publicly funded programmes and schemes relevant to children and young people.” We are aware of this requirement already from The Arts Council and Creative Ireland funding streams. If one wants to seek funding from a state department or agency, then being able to describe how you involve young people in your decision-making processes will become more and more important. The action plan also emphasises the development of monitoring and evaluation processes to ensure that participation is happening at various levels. While this relates more so to governmental departments, all combined it shows that if you work with young people or are seek funding from the state or state agencies to work with young people, having young people involved in your decision-making processes is expected. In IAYO, we believe that is important to do this meaningfully!

What other actions are most relevant to IAYO’s work?

There are 8 action areas in total included in this new plan with numerous actions included within each. They generally remain in line with previous frameworks and strategies. There has been the addition of several new priority areas. One new priority area, which is of interest to us, is the emphasis on the role of digital participation practices with young people. Our current youth sub-committee, who span the length and the breadth of the country, are engaging with us primarily online. That brings opportunities (i.e. widening access to rural young people and those who can’t travel) and challenges (i.e. technological issues and difference in comfort levels online). The action plans aims to develop and support this area of work.

The action plan also commits to the provision of ‘structured rights-based online training’ for all practitioners working with young people across all sectors. Coupled with the commitment regarding the promotion of both the right to participate and the benefits of participation in action area 2, this appears to recognise that support is needed for young people, practitioners / professionals and organisations to develop their work in this area. Interestingly, action 2.12, specifically mentions the development of ‘creative methodologies’ of youth participation ‘informed by the arts’. This had been mentioned to us in our conversation with Hub na nÓg last year and is potentially something we could engage with in the near future. As expected, the role of reaching the seldom heard voices and vulnerable young people has been addressed in the plan, coming under action area 8. This theme has been to the fore of many of our youth participation activities over the last while. This is also an area that we continue to work on.

The need to regularly look at how inclusive our participation practices are is clear. The focus in this area of the action plan is on the development and sharing of methods and approaches that aid these young people to take part. As we develop our approach in IAYO more, we would like to have bigger discussions around the challenges in engaging those seldom-heard voices.

Who the seldom-heard voices are is a question that gets raised from time to time, so this piece from the action plan, taken from the national youth participation framework, gives a general feel for the scope of the term. Seldom-heard voices “may include, but is not confined to: … children and young people with a disability; children and young people with neurodiversity, experiencing mental health issues, in care, and / or in aftercare; children and young people from ethnic minority backgrounds, rural areas, and / or disadvantaged areas; children and young people experiencing homelessness; young carers; children of prisoners; children and young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and others (LGBTQI+); quiet young people; and aged out unaccompanied minors.”

IAYO has been committed to developing the role of youth voice in our work practices. We have been doing that in line with the recommendations set by the state in the relevant frameworks and strategies. We have also learned and continue to learn from good practice examples nationally and internationally. This new framework is a continuation of those national guidelines as opposed to a change. It highlights some areas where more support or emphasis is needed but the underpinning principles remain steady. We will refer to the action plan when planning our activities to ensure we remain in line with current areas of interest however our primary focus of bringing younger voices into our decision-making processes has not changed.

If members are interested in hearing more about this action plan or about youth participation in decision-making in general, I am more than happy to chat with you. I can be reached by email at or phone 089 488 2626.

We will be hosting some online peer-sharing sessions in the coming months for members to explore the concept and practicalities of involving our younger musicians in decision-making in youth orchestra settings. This would include looking at the challenges that we may face when trying to involve younger voices into our work; techniques and methods for consulting young people and ways of ensuring that we do it in a way that is meaningful for all involved. We would be delighted if members would like to share some examples, no matter how big or small, of how they have been listening to young people’s views in their orchestras or on their courses. Dates and times for online peer sessions will be shared with members when finalised, please keep an eye on this website.