Liverpool has reached a milestone in its ambition to become the first Unicef Child Friendly City in the North West.
In November 2018, following work with partner agencies and young people, the city council submitted a bid to the global children’s organisation which cemented its intentions to put young people at the heart of everything it does.
Today (Thursday 7 March), Unicef UK has officially accepted the bid.
This kick-starts a three-to-five-year partnership which will see politicians, council staff and other Liverpool stakeholders, such as the universities, health providers and Merseyside Police, work with Unicef UK, to receive expert training and support in order to make sure children’s rights are reflected in policies, programmes and budgets.
As set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, children and young people will have a say on council decisions – ranging from major policies and decisions around the care they receive right though to getting involved in designing new spaces in the city or introducing new services.
To launch the partnership, a series of events will take place today. The city will literally fly the flag for the new initiative as young people from Liverpool’s Schools Parliament will join UNICEF UK’s Child Friendly Cities & Communities Programme Director Naomi Danquah, and Cabinet Member for Children’s Services Councillor Barry Kushner as they raise the Unicef UK flag from the roof of Liverpool Town Hall.
Following this, around 70 young people will gather in the council chamber to find out what this means for them and how they will be involved moving forward. They will be representing groups such as the Schools Parliament, Children Care in Council, Liverpool Arabic Centre, Barnado’s Young Carers, Merseyside Youth Association, Young People’s Advisory Service and Champions for Young Disabled People.
In the afternoon, more than 50 primary school pupils from Faith Primary and Holy Cross Primary schools will head to Liverpool Central Library’s Discovery area for a special storytelling session as part of World Book Day. On hand to read some of their favourite children’s books to the youngsters with Unicef UK will be Cllr Kushner and Superintendent Mark Wiggins from Merseyside Police, as well as representatives from the University of Liverpool, Liverpool Charity and Voluntary Services, Liverpool Learning Partnership, Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company and the Reader Organisation.
Following the launch, Liverpool will embark on the ‘Discovery Phase’ of the programme – this will see the city council and its partners work with local children and young people to identify three areas, or ‘badges’, that should be prioritised in order to make the city more child-friendly. For example, safety, education, staying healthy or employment. Three other badges will be set by Unicef UK.
Liverpool will be assessed on a regular basis throughout the programme, which will culminate in the city council submitting evidence that positive changes have been implemented, alongside testimonials by children and young people.
If Liverpool is successful, it will be internationally recognised as a Unicef Child Friendly City, joining cities and communities in 40 countries which are taking part in this global programme.
Mayor Anderson, said: “Our vision for the future of Liverpool is to build a strong and growing city based on fairness. Everyone, of every generation, has an important part to play in making that happen, but co-designing the future of our city with children is an important step forward. Children will be at the heart of decision making.
“Working with an organisation such as Unicef UK means we are working with the very best when it comes to improving the lives of future generations and opening up the best possible opportunities for them.
“This is very much the start of a long and ambitious journey towards receiving international recognition, however we already have many child-friendly processes and initiatives in place, so it’s a case of building on these and making sure we give a voice to as many young people as possible.”
Naomi Danquah, said: “We are delighted to welcome Liverpool City Council to the Child Friendly Cities & Communities Programme.
“These are challenging times for local authorities, but this partnership represents a bold commitment from the city council and their partners to put children’s rights at the heart of everything they do – from early conversations around children’s spaces and services in Liverpool, to the day-to-day running of those services.
“We’re excited to see this partnership make a real and lasting difference to children’s lives in Liverpool.”
Councillor Kushner, said: “It’s a real coup to have Unicef UK partner with the council to enable positive change across the city.
“This process means we can ensure meeting children’s needs is not just a priority for the council, but a priority for the city as a whole.
“We will bring together partners from across Liverpool to look at how we can all embed children’s rights in our work with and for young people.
“We already have a clear vision when it comes to children – for example, we are committed to keeping all our Children’s Centres open and making care leavers exempt from council tax. However this will really focus our, and our stakeholder’s, approach to initiating meaningful conversations with young people to make a real difference.”