The importance of child engagement 

1st December 2023

Engaging with children and young people to hear their views and involve them in decision making is integral to the way we work at Challengers.  

It’s really important that we provide services that our young people enjoy and benefit from, so we regularly spend time with them to understand their thoughts, concerns and wishes.

Child engagement forms part of the Children and Families Act 2014 (Section 19) and two UN Conventions (Rights of the Child and Rights of Persons with Disabilities) and is something which should happen routinely. However, in reality, we know that disabled children and young people still have far fewer opportunities to participate in engagement activities than their non-disabled peers, with research by VIPER showing that many disabled young people are excluded from participation and decision-making opportunities. 

How do we engage with children at Challengers?   

We have a child engagement team led by our Impact and Evaluation Officer Maddie, who is supported by two Child Listeners.

The team visits all of our services to engage with the young people, visiting each location up to 5 times a year to ensure that we get a thorough understanding of what children are thinking and feeling, and what we can do to improve their experiences. 

To help make it easier for children to communicate their feelings, we have developed a Child Engagement Toolkit which includes lots of visual representations, flash cards and sound buttons – all of which can be adapted to suit an individual’s needs.  

Where children are unable to communicate with us verbally, or may have difficulty responding to questions, the team uses a variety of techniques to engage in a fun, play-based way.

What we’ve learnt 

The team takes the insights from the child engagement sessions to plan activities for the next term, as well as taking any actions needed to their time at Challengers is as enjoyable as possible.

For example, recently some children at one scheme shared that they sometimes found the environment too noisy, so the team are working on creating a quiet zone in response to their feedback. 

During the 2023 summer holidays, 107 children and young people took part in child engagement, with headline results showing that:

  • 81% of children and young people can choose and direct their own play at Challengers. 
  • 77% of children and young people shared or showed that they felt ‘really good’ or ‘fantastic’ while at Challengers. 
  • Children told us they feel – Happy, safe and cared for & excited – when they come to Challengers. 

Here’s some of the feedback we received over the summer…

Youth-aged children on what Challengers means to them
Play-aged children’s favourite activities

When we visited Challengers Play and Youth schemes in the summer, we asked children attending our Youth schemes to explain what our charity means to them. We’re very happy to report an overwhelming amount of positive responses, with most children associating Challengers with feelings of fun and happiness. Feedback from our Play scheme showed that our children enjoy a variety of activities, ranging from soft play to the all-time favourites – reptile and animal visits.

If you’d like to hear more about our child engagement work, please feel free to contact Maddie at: