Cardiff becomes first city in the UK to achieve UNICEF Child Friendly City status

Home > Media Contacts and Press Releases > Cardiff becomes first city in the UK to achieve UNICEF Child Friendly City status

Cardiff becomes first city in the UK to achieve UNICEF Child Friendly City status

Friday 27 October 2023 – Today the United Kingdom Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) has announced Cardiff as the first UK city to be awarded UNICEF Child Friendly City status. 

Over the past five years UNICEF UK has been working with councils across the UK to implement the global UNICEF Child Friendly Cities & Communities programme by developing and putting in place strategies with local authorities and local leaders to advance children’s rights. Cardiff City, led by Cardiff Council and partners, is the first in the UK to achieve the prestigious and globally recognised UNICEF Child Friendly City award.  

Cardiff Council and its partners joined the programme in 2017 as part of a pioneering cohort. Since then, it 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. Working with the city’s children and young people, Cardiff prioritised six key areas: Cooperation and Leadership; Communication; Culture; Health; Family and Belonging; and Education and Learning.  

These priorities and goals are now enshrined in Cardiff’s Child Friendly Strategy, and the Council has been working in partnership with organisations across the city to implement an ambitious number of projects, initiatives, and actions to ensure children and young people are able to claim their rights and address the barriers which may limit their life chances.   

Examples and highlights of the work include: 

  • 42,254 children and young people have accessed early help and support via the new Family Support Gateway since April 2019 
  • 66,324 children aged 5-14 have accessed local authority play provision since April 2020 
  • 73% of Cardiff schools are working to embed children’s rights as part of the UNICEF UK Rights Respecting Schools Award 
  • Almost 14,000 active citizenship hours have been delivered by young people through groups including the Children and Young People Citizen Panel, Cardiff Influencers and the Children’s Youth Council 
  • There have been over 700 opportunities available to children and young people to meaningfully participate in Cardiff Council decision-making 
  • 50 teams of children were engaged with to design new areas of the city through Minecraft Education 
  • 2,785 children have participated in design, monitoring and evaluation of Council services  
  • 12,000 young people provided views via the Child Friendly City Survey 
  • Over 5,519 council and partner staff have completed child rights training, and 3,595 children and young people have received participation and rights training 
  • More than 155,000 products have been delivered to schools to support Cardiff’s commitment to promote period dignity since March 2019
  • 19 streets helping to reduce traffic at 22 schools have been made safer through the School Streets Scheme 
  • Nine city-wide outdoor Story Trails have been developed for families to enjoy  
  • More than 2861 children have accessed over 90 free extra-curricular activities through The Passport to the City initiative helping them develop a sense of pride in their community and city  
  • 43 partners have delivered hundreds of initiatives for young people in areas such as science and technology, arts and culture and health and wellbeing to enrich their learning experiences within and beyond the classroom 

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of the UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK), said: “Becoming the first UNICEF Child Friendly City in the UK is a testament to the significant commitment and hard work that has taken place by the Council and its partners over the past five years. It also marks a promise to Cardiff’s children and young people – that the Council will continue to make sure children’s voices are at the heart of local decisions, and that all children and young people – especially vulnerable and marginalised children – have their rights upheld, now and in the future.” 

Shoruk, 23, is a member of the Youth Forum at community space Grange Pavilion in Cardiff. She said: “The Youth Forum is a group of young people from Grangetown who want to help the area grow and develop. What we’ve done here in our younger years, as we become the adults, we’re helping the next generation so that they can do the same thing. It’s a safe space, and a place where we can do what we want, whether that’s exploring different jobs or visiting the university; we just thrive off each other. Everything is youth led.”

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. 

“Through the shared ambition of other public services, extensive work has been carried out to ensure that Cardiff is a place where all children and young people, regardless of belief, ethnicity, background or wealth are safe, healthy, happy and able to share in the city’s success with equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents. 

“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.” 


Notes to editors:

For more information about the programme or to read the recognition report visit:  

For further information, or to receive the multimedia package, please contact: 

Amy Shacklady, [email protected] 07983 500 137 

UNICEF UK Media Team, [email protected], 0207 375 6030

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

The UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) raises funds for UNICEF’s emergency and development work for children. We also promote and protect children’s rights in the UK and internationally. We are a UK charity, entirely funded by supporters.

United Kingdom Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK), Registered Charity No. 1072612 (England & Wales), SC043677 (Scotland).

For more information visit Follow UNICEF UK on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube 

About UNICEF Child Friendly Cities and Communities 

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. 

 In the UK, we provide training based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and support councils, their partners, and children and young people, as they work together on an ambitious three to five year journey towards international recognition as a UNICEF Child Friendly City or Community. 

For more information visit 

What does it mean to be recognised as a UNICEF Child Friendly City or Community?  

Over three-to-five years UNICEF UK works closely with a council, their local partners, and children and young people on an ambitious journey towards international recognition as a UNICEF Child Friendly City or Child Friendly Community.  

Recognition signifies that UNICEF publicly recognises that a council and its local partners have taken significant and sustainable steps in a number of defined areas towards advancing the human rights of children and young people growing up in their city or community.  

Each city and community will have different priorities, depending on the strengths, needs and challenges of their own contexts. Significant progress might include having developed strong partnerships and policies to help tackle serious youth violence, resulting in children and young people feeling safer in their communities; creating a child centred approach to planning so that the needs and views of children and young people are always incorporated into parks, playgrounds and housing; and developing city-wide partnerships and communications strategies so that children and young people are represented fairly, accurately, and without discrimination and know where to go for help and support.  

Child Friendly status recognises progress, not perfection. This is why it’s essential that cities and communities produce a robust sustainability plan as part of their assessment for recognition. This plan should demonstrate how the council and its partners will sustain and, crucially, build on progress achieved, to continue to address any gaps or issues.  

Child Friendly status therefore not only celebrates the work that has taken place so far, but reflects the genuine commitment of the council and its partners to continue resourcing and implementing rights-based principles in their work, with and for children and young people.  

How is a city or community assessed? At the beginning of their journey with UNICEF UK, candidate cities and communities create an action plan. The action plan sets out how change will be achieved across six thematic priority areas for the duration of the programme. These priority areas (referred to as Badges) are chosen in collaboration with children and young people.  

After implementing this action plan for at least two years, candidate cities and communities become eligible for assessment. During assessment, councils and their partners are asked to demonstrate how they have achieved the ambition set out in their action plan. This is done through relevant, good quality evidence that illustrates what councils and their partners have learned and details how they plan to take forward their commitment to realising children’s rights once ‘Child Friendly’ status has been achieved.  

At the end of their programme journey, cities and communities are asked to:  

– Submit documentation setting out their case for recognition  

– Submit detailed evidence against the outcomes and indicators in their CFC action plan  

– Host a live assessment, during which UNICEF UK’s independent Recognition Advisory Panel will hold discussions with key representatives from the city, including children and young people.