Working towards making Nottingham a UNICEF Child Friendly City

Ekua Ghanash, Child Friendly City Programme Lead, tells us about the ambitious work being done by Nottingham City Council, One Nottingham, and Small Steps Big Changes (SSBC) to have Nottingham recognised as a UNICEF Child Friendly City.

Ekua Ghanash

Monday 20th November was World Children’s Day, marked to commemorate the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1989. The CRC has been ratified by 196 countries, including the UK. It seemed particularly apt to use this special day to officially launch Nottingham’s ambitions to become recognised as a UNICEF Child Friendly City.

Led by Nottingham City Council, One Nottingham, and Small Steps Big Changes (SSBC), this broad-based local partnership will see Nottingham’s children have their rights put into practice in the city over the next three to five years. The SSBC programme, which is due to end in 2025, will very much be part of their post programme legacy to the city.

About Child Friendly Cities & Communities

Child Friendly Cities & Communities is a UK Committee for UNICEF UK, and a programme that works with local government 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 decisions, services, and spaces that shape their lives.

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

The launch for Child Friendly Nottingham saw schools across the city use Children’s Rights as a theme for their morning assemblies, followed by an afternoon of activity involving children and young people working alongside local councillors and partner representatives on the next steps of Nottingham’s exciting journey! The day ended with Nottingham’s Council House lit up in blue for World Children’s Day.

Launching the ambitions for the city’s children and young people was the culmination of a lot of work, and it is therefore good to reflect and recognise that the voyage of ‘discovery’ started long before this, in 2021.

The initial phase of the programme, also known as ‘the discovery phase,’ saw the programme working with over 9000 children and young people to agree goals for Nottingham to work towards, using UNICEF UK’s badge framework. These badges show how the City Council, partners, local organisations and the young and old alike can make Nottingham truly child friendly.

The goals

In total, there are seven goals. Three of which were decided by the city’s children and young people; ‘Safe and Secure,’ ‘Education and Learning,’ and ‘Healthy.’ Three were designated by UNICEF UK as vital aspects of achieving child friendly status and ‘Culture,’ ‘Communication,’ and ‘Cooperation and Leadership.’ A final one, which we believe is a golden thread connecting the other six, is ‘Equal and Included.’

Below: Culture, Communication and Cooperation and Leadership (UNICEF UK mandatory badges) and Equal and Included (Nottingham’s golden thread).

UNICEF UK mandatory badges

Nottingham’s children and young people chose the following badges:

Safe and secure

Nottingham’s children and young people told us they didn’t feel safe going to parks, crossing roads, or on their way to school. Our (older) young people expressed concerns about their relationship with the police.

If we had a safe and secure city and everyone feeling safe and secure more people would move around the city and visit the city.’

Education and Learning

Our children and young people told us they feel pressure around their futures, with limited opportunities for further education and practical experiences.

‘[Education and Learning] helps us follow our dreams and be responsible.’


Nottingham children took a wider view of health. Many commenting that there aren’t enough activities to support their general health. They wanted more education on how being active helps improve their mental health, and how to eat well.

‘Poor health leads on to anti-social behaviour and crime, poor eating leads to other problems, poor health will impact on jobs and family life.’

Over the next few years, the council and its partners will work towards achieving meaningful change for children in these seven badges. Each theme is overseen by a steering group who, from the initial discovery phase, have worked on action plans which will change the lives of children and young people in Nottingham. Nottingham’s Child Friendly City Action Plan was signed off as a city-wide plan in September 2023 by Nottingham City Council’s Executive Board.

Following the progress

Progress of these plans will be closely reviewed by UNICEF UK, an independent panel of experts in human rights, child wellbeing and public services, as well as an advisory board of local children and young people. Nottingham will need to show sustainable progress in all seven theme badges to be recognised as a UNICEF Child Friendly City.

Cllr Cheryl Barnard, Portfolio Holder for Children, Young People and Education at Nottingham City Council, said:

‘It is vital that we put children at the heart of decisions we make as a council. I’m proud that we have consulted with more than 3,000 young people as part of our commitment to becoming a Child Friendly City – and even more proud of the valuable and meaningful contributions they have made. They have been clear on what they would like to change and improve in their city. This will help us to develop our Children’s Rights approach to make sure their views are increasingly embedded in the city in the next three years. I expect young people to continue providing us with their views as we move forward.’

While we still have a way to go, we know we are on the right track to putting our ambitious plans into practice. For the children of Nottingham, the future is looking a whole lot brighter!

About A Better Start

A Better Start is a ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Five A Better Start partnerships based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend are supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life. Working with local parents, the A Better Start partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language and communication.

The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life. It is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier

The National Children’s Bureau is coordinating an ambitious programme of shared learning for A Better Start, disseminating the partnerships’ experiences in creating innovative services far and wide, so that others working in early childhood development or place-based systems change can benefit.

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Visit the A Better Start website to find out more.