This means placing the rights and voices of children and young people at the heart of our policies, strategies and services; involving them in decision-making; and addressing the barriers that limit their life chances.
Cardiff’s commitment to becoming a UNICEF Child Friendly City must be shaped by children and young people. Since the very beginning of our journey, they have worked with us so that we can find out where they think our priorities should lie.
Based on what they’ve told us, we are prioritising education, family and belonging, and health.
On education, making sure Cardiff’s schools embed child-rights practices – where the voices of young people are heard and acted upon – will be front and centre of our ambitions to become a Child Friendly City.
Developing skills for life is also at the heart of our approach. It has been estimated that nearly two in three children entering schools today will end up working in jobs that do not yet exist. In our Child Friendly City, children will leave school with the life skills they have told us they need to succeed, including the abilities to make well-balanced decisions, manage personal finances, develop healthy lifestyles, and maintain good social relationships.
When it comes to families, our ambition is for Cardiff to be a place where all families are supported to be together and can enjoy activities around the city.
And on health, giving children the best start in life is a priority. Getting it right for families in the first 1,000 days – from conception to a child’s second birthday – is critical to achieving this aim.
We are already seeing progress in all three of these areas. More than 30 of our schools have started their journey towards becoming UNICEF UK Rights Respecting Schools. In May this year, meanwhile, we held our biggest car-free event. Thousands of families were able to cycle in the city centre and enjoy a range of free family-friendly activities.
A Street Play pilot programme has started, where residents can simply apply to close their roads on a monthly basis, to enable children to play safely in their streets.
And Cardiff has adopted a ‘Think Family’ approach, making sure that public services are joined up and that children and families are given the right support, in the right way, at the right time in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. Cardiff is also working towards UNICEF UK Baby Friendly accreditation in maternity and community health services.
We are at the beginning of our journey towards becoming a UNICEF Child Friendly City, with much more to come. I, along with a third of my councillor colleagues, have received training in children’s rights from UNICEF UK, with another round of training planned for the autumn.
Through this work we can ensure that the voices of our children and young people are heard. This means the priorities we set as a city are informed by a diverse mix of interests and opinions, and are relevant and beneficial to all.