Young people in Brent have been at the forefront of local democracy in recent times; on Monday 22nd January 2018, it was announced that amendments to Brent Council’s constitution now enable Brent Youth Parliament members to attend full council meetings and pose questions for 20 minutes.
Brent Youth Parliament members have been granted direct communication and involvement in decisions made by Brent Council, signifying a major turning point regarding the active involvement of young people in regional issues.
Changes like these never happen overnight. In March 2017, Brent Youth Parliament introduced a ‘Councillor Hotseat’ session, allowing young people to engage with Councillors and hold them accountable for their decisions. As a result, councillors were able to better acknowledge the calibre of young people’s voices surrounding local concerns, leading to immense levels of support for the decision to amend the constitution in late 2017.
During the first Councillor Hotseat, when asked about working with young people, Cllr. Denselow expressed: “I think councillors are influenced by the people they don’t see. We don’t always see youth – and I understand why!”
‘I really want to hear young people’s voices,” added Cllr. Sheth. “They have fantastic thinking and ideas. It’s good that you come from that different angle.”
Discussion between young people and Brent Council proceeded to improve throughout the year, culminating in a meeting in November 2017 between MP Dawn Butler, Brent Council Leader Cllr Butt and Brent Youth Parliament members, to vocalise the growing need for young people’s involvement concerning proposals made by Brent Council.
Three months later, Brent Council’s report on the newest constitution amendments states: ‘It is proposed that in order to enhance the council’s engagement with young people, 20 minutes be set aside at alternate council meetings for questions to be asked by the Youth Parliament.’
Response to this change was overwhelmingly positive; Brent currently stands as one of the few Youth Parliaments able to speak at full council meetings and communicate so directly with its borough’s council.
Samira, the Deputy UK Youth Parliament representative for Brent Youth Parliament, wrote: ‘The changes to the Brent Council constitution allows young people in Brent to have direct communication with the council with 20 minutes to pose questions. This is a massive achievement for young people and the participation of young people in local democracy.’
Brent Youth Parliament members are already ensuring the youth voice is accurately represented in these meetings, by asking all members to discuss issues impacting their school or youth group. By doing so, members hope to provide an impactful contribution to developments within the borough – but also, to establish confidence that the voice of over 79,800 young people resonates strongly in all of Brent Council’s decisions.