Supporting Wandsworth Children’s Services to create Wandsworth’s BIG TAKEOVER

The Brief

Wandsworth Children’s Services approached Participation People to help them establish partnerships between Wandsworth Local Authority, senior leaders and young people, with the aim to improve services overall, by having them evaluated by the young people that use them. 

Through the activity we wanted to help young people to develop useful skills such as confidence and communication, plus help senior leaders achieve a better understanding of the young people their services support, and potentially solve some big business challenges to boot. 

In previous years, we invited young people to take over from senior leaders for one day, so we wanted to build on this, and invite them to take over for as long as a week.


Participation People & Wandsworth Children’s Services collaborated to create Wandsworth’s BIG TAKEOVER, a project which allowed young people to work with senior council leaders to co-produce solutions to big business challenges, through an equal partnership.

The planning, facilitation and delivery of the BIG TAKEOVER was project managed by Participation People’s team of Young Facilitators (a group of young people trained to facilitate events which enable other young people to share their youth voice). Senior leaders referred young people to participate who had previously accessed their services, including:


  • Care experienced
  • Young parents
  • At risk of exploitation
  • Known to the youth justice system 
  • SEND
  • Identifying LGBTQ+


The Young Facilitators were key to ensuring that the needs of the young people involved were met, taking a considerate approach to setting up the event with attention to accessibility, equity and inclusion. Confidence and communication skills were potential barriers for the young people to really interact with the senior leaders, so we ran a series of workshops in advance to help instil skills.


There was also a key project timeline built out, briefings with the senior leaders to ensure these were managed, and  the Young Facilitators collaborated with  senior leaders to identify the big business challenges that the young people would help to solve. 


The project kicked off with an event held at Wandsworth Town Hall, plus community outreach on the part of the senior leaders, before  the week of young people getting their teeth into significant tasks such as: improving the accessibility of formal governance processes; improving how senior leaders induct and welcome new staff; youth-proofing paperwork.


Further big business challenges addressed included: 


  • Engaging more young people in education, employment and training opportunities
  • Strengthening young people’s voices within youth offending & across SEND support
  • Exploring Wandsworth’s finance processes across Children’s Services and problem-solving challenges in the schools’ budget
  • Communicating with young people and promoting youth clubs and their programmes
  • Working together to make Wandsworth the very best place for children and young people to grow up

Project top tip: Empower young people to communicate with senior leaders by running workshops in advance to instil these skills.


61 young people from vulnerable backgrounds took part including:  

  • 15 young people with a special educational need/disability
  • 6 young people referred from Early Help
  • 3 young people considered a child in need
  • 2 Care leavers
  • 2 Care experienced
  • 5 young people known to the youth justice team


100% said that they learned something new, 92% found the experience fun and 98% found new solutions to big business challenges. 


15 senior leaders also took part, including: Wandsworth’s Chief Executive, Lead Member for Children’s Services and Director of Children’s Services. 


Together, young people worked with senior leaders and solved a number of big business challenges, including:


  • The Chief Executive Officer agreed to creating a mentorship programme for young people
  • Solutions found to help social workers make their meetings for young people more accessible
  • The Assistant Director will continue hosting feedback sessions with young people to help advise him on Wandsworth’s budget spend
  • Videos created to help induct new Children’s Services staff about growing up in Wandsworth today
  • Staff training guidance was reworked to ensure young people’s voices and lived experiences are reflected
  • Child Protection Conferences improved to be more inclusive and receptive to young people
  • Care Pathways redesigned including a new look and feel to statutory paperwork


Ana Popovici – Director of Children’s Services, London Borough of Wandsworth.


“Participation People have such great expertise in engaging, developing and working with young people to ensure they feel confident in using their voices to ensure they have a platform to be heard. 

Participation People are able to bring together a collective and diverse range of youth voices through great projects across the country. 

They share best practice learning and really demonstrate the importance of getting young people involved and engaged.”


This project met its aims and was a rewarding and positive experience for all those directly involved – both the young people, the senior leaders and the Young Facilitators themselves. 

Of the 75 young people that were recruited to take part; 62 young people chose to continue their participation after the workshops. But not only that, many more young people within the community will benefit from the improvements to services for years to come, because the aim of the project was to build relatability, connections and solid partnerships and connections between senior Wandsworth Children’s Service staff and the young people they serve.


Speak to our experts to find out how we can help you develop stronger partnerships between young people and decision makers in your area, to improve your service design and solve some big business challenges, first time.