Places that are accessible to our youngest residents are accessible for everyone. That is the guiding belief at the heart of child-friendly placemaking approach in Redbridge. The borough has one of the youngest and most diverse populations in the country, something we want to celebrate and leverage in the way we design our spaces. It’s also has one of the fastest growing populations nationally, which brings challenges of its own.
Redbridge joined the UK Committee for UNICEF’s (UNICEF UK) Child Friendly Cities and Communities programme
in October 2018 with a remit to bring the voice of children and young people into the heart of our decision making and everything we and our partners across the borough do. In joining the Child Friendly Cities and Communities programme we were able to develop some specific tools and ideas that we could apply to our planning and regeneration activities creating a “toolkit” that allows us to apply a child’s rights-based approach to place making that is informed by local need.
One of these tools was a set of principles that looked at best practice in child friendly planning nationally and picked out those concepts that worked for us locally based on what children and young people were saying – for example. developments that were inclusive of the needs of our diverse communities or promoted a feeling of safety.
Another part of the toolkit was creating relevant and meaningful opportunities for youth engagement. This was built on the years of good practice in youth participation from our schools, voluntary sector partners and our own children's participation and youth engagement workers. We worked with diverse groups such as our Youth Council, SEND Youth Forum, Children in Care councils, Young Carers and many others to inform and co-design regeneration schemes and projects. We found that our young people responded to these challenges in thoughtful and innovative ways, creating learning and insight for us to bring back into our services at every stage.
In particular the Child Friendly Cities and Communities programme team in Redbridge has been working with the Planning team on some exciting new ideas. We are developing a Community Design Forum which will provide a voice for young people to shape policy and developments within their communities. The forums also provide a platform to train all the participating members on how to implement a child rights-based approach
. We hope to use hoardings on local developments to share stories that matter to our young people, such as celebrating our diversity, something they are passionate about. Ultimately, we want to support our young people to engage with and guide developers to create spaces that are welcomed and enjoyed by all.
The enthusiasm of our Planning and Regeneration teams has been transformative for us. Their willingness to be brave and experiment with new ways to engage, genuinely listen to children and young people and then implement the ideas that emerged in ways that will be impactful to children and young people. This enthusiasm and willingness to try new things coupled with UNICEF UK’s specialist training on a child’s rights-based approach, has equipped our Planners and Regeneration officers to take a fresh new approach that can only add value in creating a borough that is great for our children and families and consequently for all of our residents.