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Participation and co-production best practice


This is a guide for practitioners and professionals who work with children and young people and their families in Norfolk.

Children, young people and families might also find this guide useful, to understand how Norfolk County Council, service partners and organisations should work with you.

Key terms defined

We speak about these terms often:

Co-production is...

Working together and communicating as equals. Understanding and valuing one another's unique insights and expertise. Working together to create a plan to bring about positive change. There are statutory requirements for co-production.

Participation is...

Everyone is actively encouraged and supported to work together to improve services. Everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute and respond in the sharing of ideas and decision-making. 

Consultation is...

Everyone's views, opinion and feedback are considered. This allows us to act and bring about improvement and positive change.

Benefits of working in co-production

Everyone benefits from working in co-production.

The child or young person:

  • Is valued, and so are their experiences
  • Trusts the adults supporting them
  • Gets support that meets their actual needs and not their perceived needs
  • Makes good progress

Parents and carers:

  • Are valued, and so is their expertise
  • Trust in the system and the people who work in the system
  • Understand the system and how and why decisions are made
  • Can see their child's needs are being recognised and met

Practitioners and professionals


  • You can build strong relationships with families and service providers
  • You can use resources effectively and make savings
  • You will be more motivated
  • You will know if you are making a difference

Strategic leads

  • You will put families at the heart of their decisions
  • You can make evidence-based decisions


  • You will be able to create a more responsive, relevant, and useful service offer
  • You will have a better understanding of the lives and experiences of people you support
  • You can reduce the 'us versus them' dynamic

Coproduction statutory requirements

There are statutory co-production requirements that must be met.

Children and Families Act 2014, Section 19

Local authorities (LAs) must have regard to views, wishes and feelings, participating as fully as possible in decisions, being provided with the information and support necessary to enable participation in those decisions, need to support to facilitate the development and to help children and young people achieve the best possible educational and other outcomes.

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 12

Every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously.

Care Act 2014

LAs should, where possible, actively promote participation in providing interventions that are co-produced with individuals, families, friends, carers and the community.

NHS Constitution, Principle 4 and Values

Public, patient and carer voices are at the centre of our healthcare services, from planning to delivery. Every level of our commissioning system will be informed by insightful methods of listening to those who use and care about our services.

The importance of participation

At Norfolk County Council, we are committed to inclusive participation. It informs the way that we work and make decisions and is a key part of everything we do.

Without participation, it can be easy to make assumptions about what children, young people (CYP) and families think and feel.

It is important that we work with our partners and listen and understand CYP and parents'/carers' views and experiences.

With everyone working together to understand all views and experiences, we can:

  • Develop and improve services
  • Achieve the best possible outcomes for children and young people, so they flourish

Different levels of participation

Individual participation

This involves children and young people in decisions that affect their lives. For example, decisions about their support and care, and their day-to-day activities. Children and young people can build their decision-making skills, confidence and self-esteem. They will also become aware of their rights in being involved in decisions about them.

Operational participation

This involves children and young people and/or families in decisions on their actual needs. This is instead of a service or organisation deciding what their needs are.

Strategic participation

Children and young people and/or families work with service delivery partners. Together they plan long-term priorities for services and support. They also help monitor and design services. Strategic participation can be at a local, regional or national level.

The Lundy Model of Participation

In Norfolk, we have adopted the Lundy Model of Participation. Practitioners and professionals should follow this model, when participating with children, young people and families.

The Lundy model is based on four key elements; space, voice, audience and influence.


Give children and young people (CYP) and families safe and inclusive opportunities to form and express their views. You should consider:

  • What opportunities/spaces have been provided for young people's involvement?
  • Is the venue accessible, friendly and safe?
  • Are the staff appropriately trained and supported?
  • Have children, young people and families been asked how they want to be communicated with?
  • Has information been adapted to make it accessible for all?
  • Have CYP and families from a variety of backgrounds had the chance to be involved?


Provide information and support for CYP and families to express their views. Ask yourself:

  • Have children, young people and families been asked for their views?
  • Are creative, fun and diverse activities being used to support children and young people and families to express a view on a topic?
  • Have children, young people and families been provided with enough information to form a view?
  • Is enough time being given to fully discuss issues?
  • Where have the voices of children and young people been heard and acted upon?


Make sure the views of CYP and families are communicated to the right people. Things to think about:

  • Are appropriate decision-makers involved and engaged?
  • Does the audience have power to make decisions?
  • Do children, young people and families know who their views are being shared with? And what will happen afterwards?
  • Is there a clear agreed process in place for communicating back children and young people's views? Is this done in an accessible way?
  • How have decision makers and partners heard young people's views and changed things based on their feedback?


Make sure the views of CYP and families are taken seriously and acted on where possible. You should consider:

  • Have the views of children and young people and families been considered and how were they recorded?
  • Have children and young people and families been told how their views influenced a decision? If not, why not?
  • Is there a process in place for children and young people and families to hold decision-makers to account?
  • When and how will children and young people and families see the impact of their participation?

The Lundy Model of co-production was developed by Professor Laura Lundy, Co-Director of the Centre for Children's Rights and a professor in the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen's University, Belfast.

Top tips for participation

  • Invite and include everyone
  • Consider how you will engage everyone
  • Meet at a time that works for everyone
  • Be well organised
  • Be open to questions
  • Use inclusive language
  • Be flexible
  • Everyone should enjoy being involved
  • Connect to build relationships
  • Don't worry if you get things wrong - we all do!

Starting a project with children and young people

Before you start a project with children and young people (CYP), you should:

Have a clear project outcome

It is important to be clear about the outcome you want to achieve. For example, are you considering a change to a strategy, or reviewing a service?

If you are planning to work with just children and young people, you should consider:

  • How CYP will help to get you to the outcome
  • How you will explain to CYP what you want to achieve
  • How you will engage CYP, so they want to be involved
  • How you will give CYP the chance to have a say
  • How much involvement CYP will have in decision-making
  • How you will feedback to the CYP who you worked with

Consider how you will meet

What you want to achieve and who you want to engage with will influence how you will meet. It will also influence your planning and timescales.

  • If you ask an established group for views, the group organisers can help you. You will be able to ask about the needs of the group, find out what members are used to and can check what software and venue is used. There are several existing groups and forums in Norfolk
  • You will need to do more organisation if you are setting up a new online group or meeting
  • If you are organising a new face-to-face group, meeting or event, you will have lots to think about and do

Other considerations

  • What resources do you have available? For example, people, partnerships, time and money
  • Are there existing groups you could participate with? How do they meet?
  • Do you need to create a group? How will you recruit children, young people and/or families to join the group?
  • How you will communicate with children, young people and families. How will you promote participation activities to them and share information?
  • When is the best time to meet your target audience? This may be different for CYP and parents/carers
  • The use of language when speaking to children, young people and families. For example, will your target audience know what SEND means or that it relates to them?

The Lundy Model is a useful framework to use when planning your sessions.

Planning a new face-to-face session

Prompts for organising your session(s).

How many people will attend an event and staffing

You should consider:

  • What is a comfortable number of attendees, so everyone is safely supported
  • How many people will be available to support at an event
  • Do staff have knowledge and understanding of the needs of the children and young people they will be supporting?
  • Have you got back-up arrangements in place in case of emergency?
  • Have you got everyone's mobile numbers in case they are needed?

In general, 10 attendees would be the optimum number, 25 would be the maximum number and four attendees is the minimum number.

Venue and transport

Choosing the right venue is important.

  • Can people get there using different means of transport? Will travel be provided? Who is expected to cover the cost?
  • Is it accessible for people with physical disabilities and sensory needs? Look for a venue in a safe and quiet location
  • Is there a quiet space available in case it is needed?

Date and time

Organise the session or event at a time that will work for children and young people and/or their parents/carers. It is always going to be tricky to find a time that works for everybody:

  • For children and young people this is likely to be early evening
  • For parents and carers this is likely to be between 10am and 2pm or in the evening
  • Alternatively, consider holding your meeting or event at the weekend 

Special educational needs and disabilities

Gather information about children and young people's special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) and medical needs in advance.

  • Be aware that some people may not recognise or disclose their needs
  • Share this information on a need-to-know basis with staff. This is so they can understand, support and adapt to the needs of those they are supporting

Risk assessment and first aid

Share your risk assessment with all staff and share relevant information with those attending. For example:

  • Where the fire exits are
  • How Deaf/blind people will be supported in the event of a fire alarm or fire drill
  • You will also need a first aid kit and trained first aider in attendance at your event. Check with your venue as they may have everything in place that you need

Food and refreshments

  • Will you need to provide lunch or refreshments, or will people prefer to bring their own food and drink?
  • If food is provided gather information about dietary requirements
  • If using a caterer, make sure they can provide food to meet all dietary needs


    It is important to get consent from parents and carers for their child to take part.

    • Do not exclude children and young people from making decisions about consent
    • Consent is needed for photographs to be taken and used
    • Consider using one form to collect consent and to record the child or young person's medical needs, special educational needs and/or disabilities if they have them, and dietary needs   

    Communication and publicity

    • All publicity should be in an accessible format. It might need to be in more than one format, for example, Easy Read
    • Share information well in advance so children and young people have time to plan and prepare. Send out meeting agendas a couple of days before. Include names and photos of staff, photos of the venue and details of facilities, for example, toilets and quiet area

    Materials and resources

    • Materials and resources should be accessible. Consider language, Easy Read format, pictures and images
    • Try to make the materials bright and colourful
    • Get hold of some fidget toys to put on tables
    • Consider having additional creative activities to give children and young people a break  

    Planning an online group session


    It is important to get consent from parents and carers for their child to take part.

    • Do not exclude children and young people from making decisions about consent
    • Consent is needed for photographs to be taken and used 

    Communication and publicity

    • All publicity and materials should be in an accessible format. It might need to be in more than one format, for example, Easy Read
    • Share information well in advance so children and young people have time to plan and prepare. Send out meeting agendas a couple of days before 

    Things to consider

    • Find out what devices people are using. Offer help if needed to join the meeting
    • Ask if anyone has accessibility needs
    • Show people how to use the accessibility tools. For example, chat and live captions
    • Show people how to put their hand up, go on mute, turn their camera on and off
    • Ask everyone to be muted unless they are speaking
    • Ask everyone to speak one at a time
    • Ask everyone to talk slowly
    • It can be hard to speak in large meetings, so have a system where everyone has a chance to speak
    • Be accepting that some people will not want to be on camera, but do not forget they are there. For example, regularly check the chat

    Delivering a participation session

    Preparations and introduction

    • Be prepared and be ready in good time for attendees arriving in person or joining online
    • Check your back-up or contingency plans are ready to go if needed. Be open-minded and prepared to divert from your plan
    • Remind attendees of housekeeping plans for the session. For example, to make this session run well we are waving hands instead of clapping
    • Explain how participation can change things


    • Give yourself plenty of time. Try to stick to timings knowing some young people will expect you to
    • If anything looks like it is changing, let the attendees know 
    • Take your time and speak slowly. Pause regularly when speaking. Repeat things if needed to make sure children and young people (CYP) understand
    • Be patient and be aware that everyone works at their own pace. Allow CYP time to understand, think and to process responses to questions/instructions

    Engaging with children and young people

    • Give clear instructions and adapt these as needed. Don't use jargon
    • Give choices when possible 
    • Ask CYP to explain things back to you after going over a new concept 
    • Break new information down into chunks, otherwise it can be too much
    • Consider having additional creative activities to give children and young people a break  
    • Always listen to the young person about what they want and need in terms of support
    • Be positive to build self-esteem
    • Respond to and praise appropriate behaviour
    • Ignore, as far as possible, attention-seeking behaviour 

    Closing a session and feedback

    • Explain what will happen next and how attendees' feedback will be shared with others. Telling people what happens with their feedback is very important  
    • Ask attendees how they want to hear about what has happened because of their participation. Do they want an email, phone call, to meet in-person or online?
    • Circulate or send out an accessible evaluation form for participants to complete
    • Consider how future sessions could be improved and what worked well 

    Participation resources and tools

    These resources and tools can help professionals make co-production as successful as possible.

    How to get views

    You could use:

    • Mentimeter interactive presentation software to create polls, quizzes and word clouds. It also enables you to ask questions and get quick answers from your group using smart devices for an interactive experience. Free limited trial available
    • Mind Of My Own products help young people aged 4-25-years-old to share their views, wishes and feelings. There are three apps available with different functions. The Express app is for people with SEND and younger people. They can share views, wishes and feelings using pictures, less words and sounds
    • Poll Me Everywhere enables you to host interactive online meetings. You can get feedback in real time with a variety of activities, and add polls to your presentation slides
    • Typeform enables you to create forms and surveys. You can pick a template or create your own and use the built-in photo and video libraries to bring questions to life
    • Slido is an easy-to-use question, answer and polling app. It that allows people to give their ideas anonymously, making it easier to speak up, ask questions and give their views. The basic plan is free

    How to share ideas

    • Book Creator is a tool for creating and publishing a book to tell a story. There are 50 fonts to choose from, you can add images or photos, drop in video, music or even record voices. It could be used by people who want to share information about themselves. The book could be shared in an annual review or when a young person is moving to a new class, school or college. There is a free individual package
    • Padlet is a digital whiteboard which is useful for sharing ideas virtually. You can select from a range of backgrounds and formats for displaying content. It can be shared with one or more people. It could be used in a virtual annual review meeting. Everyone could share their ideas about what they like, what is going well, what is not working and what needs to change
    • Google Jamboard¬†is a collaborative digital whiteboard for sharing ideas. Up to 25 people can work on it at one time. You can write and add sticky notes, images and webpages to create your virtual whiteboard
    • Miro Online Whiteboard is a free and simple to use online whiteboard to support sharing  ideas. You can pick a template, share and then start adding images, files and digital sticky notes

    How to get to know people in a group or meeting

    • Skribbl Io is a fun online drawing and guessing website which could be used as an icebreaker
    • ChatterPix Kids is an app that can make anything talk. Simply take a photo of pets, books or doodles, draw a line to make a mouth, and record your voice. It could be use as a fun icebreaker activity to help a child relax. Free to download on the App Store
    • Wordwall enables you to create your own fun activities such as quizzes, match ups and word games. A useful icebreaker tool 

    You said, we did

    Feeding back to the people who have given their time and views to help make a difference is important. They have a right to be told about what has happened as a result of their involvement.

    Tell them about:

    • Any changes that have been made based on what they said
    • What has been possible
    • What has not been possible and why

    Think about how to give feedback in as creative a way as possible, for example using video, podcasts, visuals, Easy read.

    You could give the feedback by:

    • Reporting back to the group directly for example, in a meeting
    • Writing a letter to those who took part
    • Publishing a news story about the work with information about how to find out more
    • Announcing developments on social media