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The power to shape decisions? An exploration of young people's power in participation

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The participation of children and young people in social care decision-making in England is now widely accepted, supported by statute and enhanced by specific practice guidance. Drawing on data from 24 semistructured interviews with young people, local politicians, managers and front-line workers in three English social services departments, this paper explores the theoretical basis of young people's participation in the local policy process. In particular, a typology devised by Levin is used to explain what types of power each stakeholder group can exercise. Levin describes three types of power: power to do, literally what an individual is actually able to do; power over, the power of a group over another group; and power to achieve, the power to realise one's will. This paper concludes that the mechanisms used to facilitate participation and the culture of the organizations where participation takes place are important factors in the process, and that a clearer understanding of power could be used to help agencies improve their policy-making.
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Keywords: participation; policy-making; power; young people

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2008

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