The #ReduceDomesticAbuse campaign was initiated by Doncaster Youth Council as a result of the UK Youth Parliament Make Your Mark ballot, and also coincided with Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council’s plans to develop a domestic abuse prevention campaign.
The #ReduceDomesticAbuse campaign took place in Doncaster within the Yorkshire and Humberside region. The campaign was initiated by Doncaster Youth Council as a result of the UK Youth Parliament Make Your Mark ballot, and also coincided with Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council’s plans to develop a domestic abuse prevention campaign. Make Your Mark is a national initiative, in which young people vote annually to prioritise topics of concern. Within Doncaster in 2020, 2175 young people voted, and domestic abuse was the most voted on topic at 412 votes.
In response to this, the Doncaster Youth Council developed a campaign which enabled young people to first influence the prevention strand of Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council’s domestic abuse strategy and then take action as part of the strategies implementation. The overall goal was to raise awareness of domestic abuse and combat the stigma and taboo associated with it, so that young people feel comfortable to speak about their experiences and can access support.
Through the campaign, young people from the youth council worked with the council’s strategic lead for domestic and sexual abuse, as well as other members of the Domestic Abuse Team. The youth council itself is supported by Participation and Engagement, Learning and Opportunities Team, within the council’s Children and Young People Department.
Engagement of children and young people
Doncaster Youth Council is an elected group of 44 young people aged 11 to 19 years old. Any young person who lives or studies in Doncaster can stand for election. The elections are promoted in schools, through social media and, in youth centres. The members come from Doncaster’s 17 secondary schools and there are home educated representatives along with representatives from young carers backgrounds and representatives for young people with special educational needs. Young people serve a two-year term as a youth councillor. The group is diverse with young people reflecting the population of Doncaster including young people from different religions, ethnic minority young people, LGBTQ+ and young people with disabilities.
Involvement in the youth council gives young people the opportunity to meet peers from across the borough, get the voice of young people heard and develop campaigns about topics that young people care about. Individual youth council members take part in the campaigns and projects of most interest to them. In the case of the #ReduceDomesticAbuse campaign a working group of around eight young people was formed from the youth councillors who were most enthusiastic about this topic.
The activities in the #ReduceDomestic Abuse campaign were a two-way process to put young people’s concerns and ideas into council strategy and to develop the youth council’s understanding of the issue. A participation officer supported all of the engagement activities. This officer provided practical and educational support to the young people, assisting them to develop and implement their plans as well as understanding of the issue. The participation officer also acts as a conduit to make connections to other parts of the council. This connection making role enabled an area of interest evolving from young people to be directly connected to the correct council departments and strategic policy areas. In this case the Domestic Abuse Team and the Domestic Abuse strategic lead. Previously there had been no collaboration between this area of policy and the youth council.
The youth council worked with the Strategic Lead for Domestic and Sexual Abuse, and other members of the Domestic Abuse Team to develop a survey for young people. The aim of the survey was to understand which aspects of domestic abuse were of most concern to young people. The youth council supported the design and promotion of the survey, which was done in schools, through social media and in youth centres. They gathered nearly 900 responses. This was significantly higher than previous surveys conducted by the council with young people on the topic of domestic abuse.
The youth council met regularly with the Strategic Lead to discuss the survey findings. The results were taken to the council’s Domestic and Sexual Abuse partnership, to feed into their work developing the Domestic Abuse strategy. This helped inform the prevention strand of the strategy. It gave policy makers and the Domestic Abuse Team valuable information on what is important to young people and the type of abuse they are suffering.
Following the development of the strategy, The youth council were then also involved in implementing activities carried out under it. Through further collaboration with the Domestic Abuse Team, they designed an awareness raising campaign targeted at young people with a focus on coercive control. The campaign included social media outreach, community artwork and the production of a film. A shorter version of the film called ‘Red Flags’ was shown in local cinema’s helping to raise awareness of coercive control and support services.
The work has now created an ongoing relationship; the youth council are working with the Domestic Abuse Team on creating a survey on violence against women and girls.
Watch the film on Doncaster Council's website: Domestic abuse and young people - Doncaster Council
The #ReduceDomesticAbuse campaign illustrates the way young people’s involvement in policy making can be simultaneously driven by both the views of young people and a pre-existing council agenda. In this case, whilst the desire to focus on domestic abuse came from youth driven consultation, The youth council’s link to an upcoming piece of strategy development was a key part of what enabled the campaign to be taken forward. The drive of both policy makers and young people was required, to make the initiative sustainable and successful.
The #ReduceDomesticAbuse campaign also shows how involving young people in policy making can overlap with involvement in programme delivery. The campaign both informed the development of the Domestic Abuse strategy and was part of its implementation. One of the advantages of involving young people in operation is it allows them to see the impact of their involvement. An advantage of involvement in operation is that it can further improve the quality of what is put in place under the strategy. Working with young people has given the Domestic Abuse Team awareness raising material tailored to young people that is used on the council’s domestic abuse website for young people.
- Local Authority: Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council
- Type of Council: Metropolitan Borough Council
- Political control: Labour (as of March 2022)
- Target group: 11 to 18 years-old
- Area of policy making: Domestic abuse
- Further details: Doncaster Youth Council - presentation
Aidan Nicol, Participation Officer, Participation and Engagement, Learning and Opportunities: Children and Young People firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen Shooter, Strategic Lead, Domestic and Sexual Abuse, email@example.com