Skip to main content

Empowered and Effective Decision Making

Capability Scotland and the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR) are working together on an action research project made possible by Scottish Government funding to find out what empowers disabled children and young people to make their own decisions.

Research background

A strong body of research evidence highlights the struggle that disabled children and young people have in getting their voice heard. This can prevent them taking a central role in decisions about their life. This action research will identify and evaluate ways of addressing this situation by considering these questions:

  • What do disabled children and young people feel support and hinder them to make informed and effective decisions?
  • What do parents/carers feel support and hinder their son/daughter to make informed and effective decisions, and how do they see their role in supporting their child in the process?
  • What do professionals feel help and hinder the child/young person to make informed and effective decisions?
  • What tools, approaches and strategies work well and what does not work so well?

What are the expected outcomes?

We believe that by improving disabled children and young people's ability to make decisions we can help meet the National Outcome of developing successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens. We also want to help embed the GIRFEC principle that children and young people should have their views listened to and that they should be involved in decisions that affect them. Specifically, the outcomes will be that disabled children and young people are:

  • listened to carefully, and their wishes heard and understood, by parents and practitioners as a result of them being better aware of both the impact of their actions and approaches for improving communication
  • more appropriately involved in discussions and decisions that affect them, as a result of the identification of proven tools, approaches and strategies for achieving this
  • better able to source, and rely upon, appropriate help as soon as possible to help them make their own decisions

Where are we to date?

The research found that there were nine key themes that help young people make decisions. One of  these centred on the attitude of parents and practitioners, finding that although disabled children and young people display a complex and diverse range of communication abilities, they are all able to communicate in some way and therefore capable of communicating certain opinions and decisions.

The research also found that lack of awareness in society about the needs of young disabled people and an individual's cognitive ability can hinder young people from making decisions.

Adopting an action research approach, we are working with some of the participants from the initial research in order to explore and expand the range of decision they make in their everyday lives. We have been working with a major leisure and retail destination, national event venues, international retailers and health professionals as part of this work.

The young people involved have been guiding this work to ensure that the learning from the initial research can be transferred and applied throughout the country and across sectors in a range of everyday settings enabling more disabled people to participate, take control and make empowered decisions affecting their lives.

Next Steps

Learning from this will be used to inform the development of both strategic and practical guidance to support the GIRFEC provisions in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.

Following the publication of the guidance to support GIRFEC, we will then work with Community Planning Partnerships to implement effective practice to ensure that disabled children and young people are involved in the creation of their own 'Child Plans'.

We will also continue the action research with disabled children and young people ensuring that the learning can be used by agencies across the country.