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Settle supports care-experienced young people as they move into their first home so they can confidently transition into independent living and thrive.

This Guide focuses on making sure young people understand what they are being asked to consent to. It is designed for situations where the worker and young person cannot be in the same place. It combines text messages with other phone based interactions.

Steps to getting meaningful consent from young people by text message

Consent needs to be informed. This means people must understand what they are agreeing to. This is both a legal and a moral consideration.

You need consent to store personal data. You also need consent to provide a service to someone. They need to understand both your needs so that they can agree or refuse.

Most young people over 16 years old can give consent on their own behalf. They don’t need a parent or carer to confirm it. Young people over 13 years old can give consent to have their data used by a digital provider (such as a games company or social media). However, you may also need consent from their parent or carer for activities and services you provide.

Consent is worthless if the young person doesn’t understand what they’ve agreed to. So you need to make sure you take the time to explain.

Think about the best way you can make it clear. Consider:

  • Simple plain language, without legal jargon

  • Explaining things in more than one way (for example by telling someone and showing them)

  • Making sure the methods you choose are accessible to the specific needs of the young people you are working with.

Settle deliver one-to-one support to young people. In the coronavirus pandemic they moved this support to a phone based service.

They need consent to store personal data about young people. They also need consent from young people to participate in the service itself.

They designed a system for collecting consent by text message. To explain the choice to young people they:

  • handle consent as part of their first session with a young person

  • explain the service their programme officers can provide, and how it might help

  • talk through GDPR using accessible language

  • describe the personal data they need to collect

  • send a picture of the form the worker is going to fill in, if the young person has a smartphone. This gives them another way to see the information that is going to be stored.

  • ask direct questions, making it very clear that its ok to be unsure and to need more explanations or time to think.

  • take more time than they would face to face, because they can’t use body language to spot if someone is hesitating.

Consent can be collected in many different ways. Text message is one of the simplest, because it can be done using any mobile phone, not just a smartphone.

A Settle programme officers calls the young person from their work phone. Then they wait until they are sure the young person has understood fully. They let them end the conversation if they don’t want to consent. If they understand and are ready to agree, they send a short text message summarising the agreement.

They ask the participant to respond “Yes, I consent”.

If you use a computer based text messaging system that stores messages online, that could be your storage. You could make a note of the date the young person consented on their referral form.

But if you are using individual work phones to send the messages, you may prefer to keep a copy of the messages in a centralised system. This is particularly important if you delete phone messages for data protection or need to free up phone storage.

Settle store their messages by taking a screenshot of the consent and uploading it to a secure Google Drive folder.

Further information

We have other Guides on different ways to get consent.

  • Scope use video calls with adults and young people with disabilities and their parents and carers.  Read their Guide.
  • Compassion in Dying use specialist software Consent Kit for people signed up for research. Read their Guide.

When you are storing people's consent, you need to think about GDPR

For more about this guide:

Contact Rich Grahame CEO & Co-founder of Settle on [email protected]