Liverpool Hope University has thrown its weight behind an important new bid to improve the life of every child living in the city.
Liverpool City Council is seeking to be awarded with ‘UNICEF Child Friendly City’ status, and is joining forces with key stakeholders to make it happen.
The idea is that by entering-in to the initiative, the whole city can ‘mobilise’ and work together to help children and young people in a number of key areas - from health, wellbeing and equity to communication and culture.
By doing so, Liverpool could see improved funding for children and young people, as well as fresh appraisals of how existing budgets could be better spent.
The UNICEF scheme is also underpinned by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) - which demands that any changes should be shaped by the views and voices of the children and young people actually living in the city.
And Hope is committed to supporting the Council’s Child Friendly City bid, with departments from across the University - including Psychology, Early Childhood, Education Studies, Business, Geography and Childhood and Youth - determined to identify any research or practices that could be utilised to reinforce the Council’s overall Action Plan.
Dr Clionagh Boyle, Head of Early Childhood at Hope, explains that the Council and partners on the Governance group kick-started its bid in March 2019 - and it’s now gathering real momentum.
She says: “Getting UNICEF Child Friendly City status is a three to five year journey involving all of the key agencies making clear commitments to have progress assessed against the six 'badge' areas identified by children and young people and UNICEF.
“The UNICEF areas are Communication, Co-Operation and Leadership and Culture and the badges chosen by children and young people in Liverpool are Place, Health- both physical and mental and Equal and Included. It's also a rolling programme where cities have to seek re-accreditation after 3 years to make sure progress is sustained.
“While the initiative will hopefully leverage more funding into the city for children and young people, it is also about looking at how existing spend is allocated and whether we can do more, or perhaps work differently, to have a more focused approach on children's rights.
“Crucially, this is also about critical thinking and political challenge.
“It is widely acknowledged that in spite of the UNCRC being over 30 years old, tangible gains for children have been slow to emerge and there is a massive gap between aspiration and reality.
“We hope to do things differently in Liverpool and make sure it is real, meaningful and reaches the children who experience rights-based challenges - ie, the children who need it the most.”
The Council-led bid is being run in partnership with a number of key allies, including schools, universities, health and social care providers, Merseyside Police and others in order to ‘achieve systemic and sustainable change’.
One example of a piece of Hope research that could assist the bid is an ‘InSite’ mapping project led by Dr Carly Bagelman, a lecturer in Education Studies.
The project used ‘Google My Maps’ software to create a ‘living map’ for refugees and asylum seekers arriving in Liverpool, pointing out everything from vital facilities to friendly parks. It could help families - who often arrive with young children - settle in a new city while also giving them a crucial sense of ‘home’.
Dr Bagelman, a member of Hope’s Centre of Education and Policy Analysis (CEPA), said of her mapping innovation: “Liverpool is a city that has a real ethical consciousness. And it’s absolutely the right place to be doing this type of thing.”
Meanwhile Hope’s Tony Bradley, lecturer in Business and also a member of the Business School’s Socio-Economic and Applied Research for Change (SEARCH) unit, will be looking to provide valuable insight about how youngsters can be better supported into employment.
On Friday 9th July 2021 (10am – 1pm) Dr Boyle and Hope’s Childhood Research Forum in the School of Education will be hosting a special webinar event - Their Name is Today: the rights of younger children in a Child Friendly City - in support of Liverpool’s bid to become a UNICEF-recognised Child Friendly City.
She says: “The process of working towards this UNICEF recognition is an unprecedented opportunity to work together to improve the life chances, equity and wellbeing of our youngest citizens and to make this city a safe, inclusive, healthy place to grow up.”
She adds: “We know that inequalities emerge in the early years of life and that growing up in poverty has a significant impact on life chances. We also know that if we are to grow democratic skills and build a culture of listening to our children we must demonstrate these values from the earliest age.
“This event will focus particularly on the needs and rights of younger children within a Child Friendly City and provide an opportunity to reflect on current and prospective research and practice, to connect what we know with what we must learn through listening to children in the early years.
“To mobilise collective effort across research and practice in local communities to identify how meaningful change for and with young children can be achieved, the event will add a specific early years dimension to the developing conversation and commitments to action across the city, drawing on expertise in research, policy, and practice.
“Themes will include the importance of addressing health and educational inequalities in early childhood, fostering democratic skills in young children and developing a culture of respect for young children’s rights from birth through the early years.”
The panel for the event will include speakers from Liverpool Hope University, University of Liverpool and Edge Hill University who are working collaboratively to bring insights from research to inform action for change in relation to young children’s voice and holistic wellbeing.
Speakers from Liverpool Council, UNICEF and importantly experts from local Early Years settings will outline the connections to policy and practice.
Meanwhile a focus on place and participation will be reflected in two featured pieces of recent work from the School of Education at Hope: the Centre for Education Policy Analysis recent research to inform community-led legacy regeneration in the Everton area of Liverpool, and the ‘Child Friendly City Toolkit’, which has been developed by students and includes a range of locally inspired activities, such as ‘Mission Liver-bird’, as a creative way of connecting children’s participation and place.
** WEBINAR DETAILS:
Friday 9th July 2021: 10am – 1pm
Their Name is Today: The Rights of Younger Children in a Child Friendly City