Cardiff is UK’s first UNICEF Child Friendly City

View of Cardiff skyline over the castle grounds.

A wealth of social science research expertise has helped Cardiff become the UK’s first UNICEF Child Friendly City (CFC).

The prestigious status has been awarded to the city in recognition of the steps Cardiff Council and its partners, including Cardiff University, have taken over the past five years to advance the human rights of children and young people across the city.

Originally, Cardiff Council and its partners joined the UK Committee for UNICEF’s (UNICEF UK) Child Friendly Cities & Communities programme in 2017 as part of a pioneering cohort.

Since then, the Council has been implementing strategies to embed children’s rights – as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – into its policies and services. Expertise from groups within Cardiff University’s Social Science Research Park has played a key role in shaping Cardiff’s Child Friendly Strategy.

SPARK, based on Cardiff Innovation Campus, is home to internationally-leading research on children, childhood and wellbeing, including health behaviours (DECIPHer), mental health (Wolfson Centre for Young People’s Mental Health), schooling (WISERD), social care (CASCADE), employability and skills (ADR Wales), international comparative studies of children’s subjective wellbeing (WISERD Education Data Lab), and numerous centres of excellence on particular needs (Centre for Human Developmental Science) such as autism and ADHD.

Professor Wendy Larner, President and Vice-Chancellor, Cardiff University, said: “Clinching the UK’s first Child Friendly City is a hugely well-deserved accolade for Cardiff Council after years of dedicated, evidence-based campaigning. We are delighted Cardiff University was able to play its part in the bid for CFC status. Our shared knowledge and expertise allowed us to act as both advisors and bridge-builders in the bid for CFC status.”

Professor Chris Taylor, Academic Director of SPARK, said: “Child Friendly City status for Cardiff is fantastic news. SPARK has lived up to its name by igniting opportunities to better link all social science research on children and young people together by working more closely with clinicians, practitioners, policy makers and community organisations.

“Many of these research centres have been supporting Child Friendly Cardiff for some years, and researchers in WISERD are just completing an international study of Child Friendly Cities. Above all, we are delighted that the Child Friendly Cardiff team are based alongside us in SPARK, which facilitates even greater collaboration with researchers.”

Working with the city’s children and young people, Cardiff Council has prioritised six key areas: Cooperation and Leadership; Communication; Culture; Healthy; Family and Belonging; and Education and Learning.

Cardiff Council Leader, Cllr Huw Thomas said: “Since the launch of Cardiff’s Child Friendly Strategy, the city has embarked on a journey of transformation with the aim that all children, including the most vulnerable, feel safe, heard, nurtured and able to thrive, to become a place where their rights are respected by all.

“The foundation of this change has been the development of a rights respecting culture across the council and city-wide partners to ensure our staff are knowledgeable and confident regarding rights and their practice. This has been supported by policy which has empowered children and young people to be meaningfully involved in decisions that matter to them, enabling services to meet their needs and adults to be more accountable for the way children and young people’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.”

Child Friendly Cities and Communities is a UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) programme that works with councils to put children’s rights into practice.

The programme aims to create cities and communities in the UK where all children – whether they are living in care, using a children’s centre, or simply visiting their local library – have a meaningful say in, and truly benefit from, the local decision, services and spaces that shape their lives.

The programme is part of Child Friendly Cities – a global UNICEF initiative launched in 1996 that reach more than 30 million children in over 40 countries.

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