Aiyana Stanley-Jones was 7 years old when she was shot by police in Detroit, USA while sleeping. Her life mattered. Tamir Rice was 12 when he was playing with a toy gun and was shot by police in Ohio, USA. His life mattered. João Pedro Matos Pinto was 14 when he was shot during a police raid in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. His life mattered. Seni Lewis was 23 when he voluntarily sought mental health support and was restrained by up to 11 police officers in London, UK for over 30 minutes he died. His life mattered. Anti-Black police brutality taking Black lives, including Black children and young people’s lives, is a global pandemic that people have created, and have the power to stop.
At the British Youth Council, we unequivocally support the movement for Black lives, and are proud to see youth-led organising against anti-Black racism here in the UK, and around the world. Young people are, so often, at the helm of challenging injustice and fundamentally reimagining the systems and structures that not only allow, but create, these injustices. I wanted to share some of this transformative work with you – please read about their work and their visions for a different world, learn more about anti-Blackness, anti-racism, and what liberation for Black lives really means.
The 4Front Project, UK
The 4Front Project was founded by Temi Mwale in 2012 after her childhood friend, Marvin Henry, 17, was shot dead in October 2010. It is a member-led youth organisation empowering young people and communities to fight for justice, peace and freedom.
In seeking justice, the project mobilises those most affected by injustice, exposes structural injustice and builds transformative justice practices. Their work for peace advocates for approaches that increase safety, build community accountability and support members to heal, promoting radical self-care. And in moving towards freedom, the project builds pride in cultural identity, creates space to envision freedom and provides anti-oppression and liberation education.
Dream Defenders, USA
The Dream Defenders was founded in April 2012 after the tragic killing of 17-year old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. That Spring, young Black, Latinx, and Arab youth marched from Daytona Beach Florida to Sanford Florida where Trayvon Martin was killed. With that fire in their bellies, they then went back to their communities and campuses to organise.
Today, they continue to build power in their communities to advance a new vision they have for the state. Their agenda is called the Freedom Papers. Through it, they are advancing their vision of safety and security – away from policing, prisons, surveillance, punishment, deportation, and war – and towards healthcare, housing, jobs and movement for all.
Black Liberation Collective, Canada
This is a collective of Black students who are dedicated to transforming institutions of higher education through unity, coalition building, direct action and political education. They have three national demands which represent collective efforts by Black students to address widespread institutional inequity: firstly, at the minimum, Black students and Black faculty to be reflected by the national percentage of Black folk in the country, secondly, free tuition for Black and indigenous students, and, finally, a divestment from prisons and investment in communities.
They have created a prison divestment toolkit for campus organisers across Canada, which provides practical steps towards decarceration, reparation and liberation. These student-led efforts are crucial to addressing larger systemic issues, and serve as a catalyst to dismantle institutions that promote and engage in anti-Blackness.
These are but a few examples of youth-led efforts to end the global pandemic of anti-Black police brutality. I hope they inspire you to turn your rage and sadness for the deeply tragic loss of Black lives into action so that we can reimagine and change our world for the better. Because yesterday, today, and always, Black Lives Matter.
For the last few weeks the general public had the opportunity to get their voices heard by submitting questions to the daily Coronavirus press conference. This gives ordinary people the chance to hear expert scientific and medical advice on specific problems they are facing during this unprecedented time. There is, however, one thing which can exclude you from submitting a question: you must be over the age of 18.
Recently, Nadia Whittome MP, one of the British Youth Council’s Honorary Presidents, asked the government to explain why young people under 18 were excluded from submitting their questions. The government responded that giving these young people this opportunity would “require further processes and additional protections to ensure that privacy is protected.” In summary, it seems that the government is actively neglecting the voices of young people simply to avoid carrying out some further administrative work.
This is simply not good enough.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, young people have overwhelmingly followed government advice. Along with the rest of the country, they have sacrificed social events, experienced financial hardship, and missed out on seeing loved ones. Like everyone else they have stayed at home in order to protect the NHS and our other vital public services, adapting admirably quickly to life within this new normal. However, unlike everyone else, young people who are under 18 are being denied the important opportunity to speak directly to the government about the concerns that affect them most.
With schools closed, GCSEs and A Levels cancelled, and education more of a postcode lottery than ever before, now is the time for the government to engage with young people directly.
Excluding under-18s from these press conferences means that students are denied the opportunity to publicly question the government on alternative arrangements for schooling and exams, and the long term effects of these on employment and mental health. These young people are already facing huge levels of uncertainty. The government should at least allow them the chance to get the answers they so desperately need from the cabinet ministers handling the COVID-19 response.
Additionally, we are joining with other leading youth organisations to request that the Prime Minister hold a press conference specifically for young people. Recent surveys indicate 67% of young people are concerned about the effects of COVID-19 on their education and development, and 39% feel worried about their own mental wellbeing due to the pandemic. These concerns cannot be addressed without direct conversations with experts and ministers. By giving young people their own press conference and by allowing under 18s to submit questions to the daily press conference, the government could signal that it is listening to young people and giving them a meaningful say on the decisions that affect them.
The Chair of the British Youth Council, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, who agrees, said: “Young people remain passionate about seeing social and political change for their communities, and now is not the time to ignore their voices.
“As the government continues to make unprecedented decisions that affect the lives of young people, the government must make attempts to speak directly with young people and address the issues that affect them.”
The British Youth Council firmly believes that in the midst of COVID-19 young people deserve to have answers to their questions.
We are asking the Government to ensure that young people under 18 across the UK can submit questions to the daily Coronavirus press conference and that the government endeavours to hold a young people’s press conference as soon as possible.
Everyone’s talking about young people.
Most of it is bad news.
Young people are, depending on the source, too nice for our own good, morally immature, useless, or informed and powerful.
Turns out you can make young people suit your story pretty easily.
For the UK’s young people, when you look at statistics, our lot do not make pleasant reading.
We are one of the most likely groups to suffer from the COVID-19 economy, the Institute for Fiscal Studies places workers under 25 at approximately two and a half times as likely to work in a sector forced to suspend business. ‘Is Wales Fairer?’ (2015) paints a bleak picture for young people in Wales – young people are “significantly worse off in many ways, including income, employment, poverty, housing, and access to mental health services”. We are under more pressure – Ipsos MORI’s 2018 report on Generation Z says 60% of 16 to 22-year-olds feel pressure to prosper and be successful, compared with only a third of baby boomers (55-75-year-olds). To round off this ‘happy’ picture – according to the Prince’s Trust Youth Index report 2019‘, young people’s well-being is at its lowest ebb since the study was first commissioned. The second lowest rating was found in 2018. Young people across the UK are facing unequal voting opportunities depending on where they live. From next month, young people in Wales will be able to vote, joining their peers in Scotland. Still 16 and 17-year-olds in England and Northern Ireland are denied this opportunity.
Today the British Youth Council, with the Votes at 16 Coalition are calling for equal voting rights for all 16 and 17-year-olds across the UK.
Change happens in a multitude of ways.
One way is definitely community action – young people uniting to defend issues that matter to them. You’ll have seen huge youth protests on gun control in America, and climate change across the world. Community action and youth protest is always happening in Wales, the brilliant youth-led grant panels funded over £100k worth of projects, and Welsh young people have been at the forefront of period poverty action. Many youth organisations across the UK have pressed forward with exciting youth-led projects, making a difference by young people for young people.
The British Youth Council have been surveying young people across the UK for years – our latest Make Your Mark saw 838,288 young people cast votes on what matters to them, supported by over a thousand schools, colleges and youth organisations.
In the top three UK issues in 2019?
Votes at 16.
In the top three devolved issues in 2019?
A Curriculum for Life.
In Make your Mark’s history, the two issues that have re-occurred each year have been Votes at 16 and a Curriculum for Life.
One would think that’s a pretty clear mandate from a huge swathe of the UK’s young people. Young people want opportunities in their schools and colleges to learn about and engage with local and national democracy. They want to put this into practice at the ballot box.
“Give a person a vote, they’ll vote for a day, teach a person why to vote, they’ll vote for life”?
That’s not quite the quote.
But the principle is there. All the evidence points to habits setting precedents for life. In Wales right now we’re looking at how active citizenship at a young age steers a future of active citizenship. Who’s to dispute the same isn’t true for voting? Teaching young people about local and national democracy benefits everyone. Even the 1924 Geneva declaration on the Rights of the Child includes the right to an upbringing that instills social consciousness and duty – I would argue that without a curriculum for life, we are failing our young people.
Young people are fed up of being talked about, not engaged with.
Many 16 & 17-year-olds work. Many pay taxes. And dependent on where they live in the UK, they may have the right to vote in local and national elections. We call for equal voting rights at 16 in the UK.
Young people are fed up of being under-paid, under-supported, and voiceless. It is unjust that, in the great age of human communication, with more ways to get heard than ever, 16 & 17-year-olds are being ignored in the fundamental expression of democracy.
Extend the suffrage, give young people the chance to have their say at the ballot box, and let us have Votes At 16.
Within the uncertainty of our Coronavirus world lies one absolute guarantee: our society will change. As chair of the British Youth Council and someone doing their best to guide a charity through a global pandemic, I fully appreciate how erratic our daily lives have become. The disorientating speed at which we all have to make decisions, and process news contrasts with being unable to socialise or spend time outside, makes everyday feel like a year, with weeks dragging or flying by. So whilst I do not envy the scale and pace that Government decision makers have to compete with, I know I am not alone in becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of public discussion or focus on how Coronavirus, or specifically COVID-19 will impact young people. Frankly, it is woeful that the generation who will have to endure the economic and social consequences of COVID-19 for the longest have not been consulted or focused on in any top level conversations. Taking three, simple steps could prove to be the fundamental changes needed to ensure that we are all embracing the fact that now, more than ever, young people matter.
Firstly, we desperately need someone to provide focused leadership on how we ensure children and young people (or ‘Generation COVID’) are not left behind when we face our new normal. Each day that schools remain closed, inequality between children widens, and the longer we are rightly following the social distancing rules, the more pronounced the mental health implications could become. An urgent, assured way to address these issues is to appoint a youth minister. We need someone responsible for bringing together experts across all departments and sectors. We need someone to plan how we safeguard the last ten years of social mobility progression. This new, point person would ensure that our plan for returning to education is complemented with research and action, and that we understand how social distancing affects our mental health.
Secondly, now is the time for the Government to be brave and elevate young voices, rather than perpetuating the archaic idea that children ‘should be seen, and not heard.’ This would mean throwing open the doors to young people full of urgent questions and ideas. However, barriers still exist with daily press conferences restricting public questions to over 18’s only. We should unashamedly follow in the footsteps of other world leaders who have specifically held youth press conferences. By empowering young people across the UK to vocalise their concerns, it would give ministers a valuable insight into the mindset of generations who will be burdened by our Coronavirus response. Other institutions, such as the Bank of England, are tackling the pandemic with young people at the forefront, and I highly suspect they will come out of this stronger. For example, the British Youth Council recently partnered with the Bank of England to establish the Bank of England Youth Forum. Members of the forum are currently gathering the financial concerns and questions of young people to put these to the Chief Economist, Andy Haldane.
Lastly, the sooner we all embrace the fact that the ‘pre-COVID’ priorities of younger generations are not going away, the sooner we can start to work across generations to find ways of embedding them into our collective exit strategy. How can we ensure our economy is supported and secure jobs are prioritised? How can we incorporate the environmental targets we cannot afford to drop? When the future of work looks grim for the under 30s, how can society collectively alleviate the concerns of the younger generations, who are often in precarious employment? Many politicians have admitted that our society will not be the same again, so let us try and work towards a society where the overwhelming priorities of the under 30s – such as tackling the climate crisis, and addressing the socio-economic factors that lead to knife crime – are built into the fabric of the new, (hopefully) post-COVID 19 society.
So far, it is apparent that the Government is dealing with the current health crisis as it develops, and the postmortem on how well or not they did this appears to be starting. Yet, I fear our policy makers are already behind in recognising how severe this global pandemic is going to impact the next generations; if we do not start to embed the voices of young people into our decision making structures now, we will be worse off sooner rather than later.
The British Youth Council is calling for the government to address some of the issues that have become more prevalent as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. Decision makers up and down the country must make provisions to ensure young people’s voices are heard so issues which have been highlighted by the current crisis can be resolved.
Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council said: “Young people remain passionate about seeing social and political change for their communities, and now is not the time to ignore their voices.
“As the government continues to make unprecedented decisions that affect the lives of young people, the government must make attempts to speak directly with young people and address the issues that affect them.”
The youth-led charity stands in support of all of the key workers across the UK, particularly those working for the NHS, striving to provide essential services and keep us safe. Early indications since the global spread of Coronavirus, suggest the inequalities faced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people across our health service remain an issue. The British Youth Council continues to believe health care settings should remain a safe, suitable and youth-friendly environment where possible. The current crisis has highlighted the ways in which chronic underfunding has led to inequalities in access to health care. Young people in insecure work and those who are socially and geographically isolated remain a concern for our members. We can not forget to address these issues of access and inequality in the wake of Coronavirus.
The crisis has further highlighted the need for increased mental health support for young people. The British Youth Council calls on the UK Government to create an open door policy within Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. This approach would ensure that young people experiencing a mental health crisis can always access the support they need. We call for mental health support which is age-appropriate, youth-friendly and accessible both locally and nationally for 16-25 year olds.
Further to the vital work of our health service, in recent weeks there has been a huge uptake in applications for Universal Credit. In the last two weeks of March, almost a million people successfully applied for Universal Credit. Families will be facing extra financial burdens at this time with children out of school and changes in employment for parents and young people themselves. The British Youth Council believes that now is the time for the UK Government to increase support for child benefits and increase the rate received for younger children to the same rate received for the oldest child. Raising the child benefit level for the younger children in a large family is a simple and direct way of increasing vital support at a time of increased financial strain. This is particularly pertinent because larger families are more likely to be in poverty. Young people and families who have been placed under additional stress due to Coronavirus require this additional support.
We believe all of these issues could be more easily addressed if the government created a Minister for Young People. The creation of this ministerial position would ensure that someone within government was always seeking to bring youth voice into policymaking. We call on the government to immediately appoint a Minister for Young People who will be able to listen to the voices of young people and take real action to address their concerns.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a catastrophic effect on the charity sector, with the cancellation of thousands of events and the loss of billions in income through fundraising events.
The Virgin Money London Marathon alone, which should have taken place on Sunday 26 April, is the world’s biggest one-day fundraising event, which raised more than £66.4 million for thousands of charities in 2019.
The British Youth Council, like so many charities across the UK, has been significantly impacted by the effects of Covid-19 and the subsequent cancellation of fundraising events. The British Youth Council endeavours to empower young people across the whole of the UK to speak up and be heard. We help to lift up their voices and ensure they are able to influence decisions on issues that matter to them. We want to ensure that we can continue to do so during these uncertain times. However, as a small charity facing big challenges, we need your help with this.
The organisers of the biggest mass participation sports events across the country have come together to create a new campaign to raise vital funds to help our fundraising and save the UK’s charities, and we are getting involved!
The campaign, The 2.6 Challenge, will launch on Sunday 26 April 2020 – what should have been the date of the 40th London Marathon, the world’s biggest one day annual fundraising event, which raised £66.4 million for charities in 2019. The challenge will last for a week. The 2.6 Challenge is open to anyone of any age – the only requirement is that the activity must follow the Government guidelines on exercise and social distancing and remember to stay local.
From Sunday 26 April 2020, we are asking you to dream up an activity based around the numbers 2.6 or 26 and fundraise by donating on our Virgin Money Giving page.
Nick Rusling, Co-Chair of the Mass Participation Sports Organisers group (MSO) and CEO of Human Race said “The 2.6 Challenge can be anything that works for you
“You can run or walk 2.6 miles, 2.6km or for 26 minutes. You could do the same in your home or garden, go up and down the stairs 26 times, juggle for 2.6 minutes, do a 26 minute exercise class or get 26 people on a video call and do a 26 minute workout – anything you like. We want people to get active, have fun and raise money to help Save the UK’s Charities by giving money or raising funds for the charity close to your heart.”
Hugh Brasher, Co-Chair of MSO and Event Director of London Marathon Events said “For many of the UK’s charities, the day of the London Marathon is the biggest fundraising day of the year
“One of the founding pillars of the London Marathon was ‘to show how the family of mankind can be united’. We hope that The 2.6 Challenge, which starts on the day our 40th Race should have taken place, will embody that spirit and inspire people, families and communities to fundraise for their chosen charity to help Save the UK’s Charities. Right now, our vulnerable members of society need the help of charities more than ever before.”
The mass-participation events organisers behind The 2.6 Challenge are: Human Race, parkrun, The Great Run Company, Run 4 Wales, Grounded Events, London Landmarks, Virgin Sport, Limelight Sports, Threshold Sports, Running High and London Marathon Events. The design and website has been created by Studio Republic and the social media campaign by LiveWire Sport. The campaign is supported by the Charities Aid Foundation, the Institute of Fundraising, the Small Charities Coalition, the Office for Civil Society, Sport England, Let’s Do This, Virgin Money Giving and JustGiving.
For more information on The 2.6 Challenge, visit twopointsixchallenge.co.uk
Dmitrijs Meiksans and Faith Oliver have been nominated for the National Diversity Awards 2020 for their work as Members of Youth Parliament and advocates within their communities. The National Diversity Awards celebrate the excellent achievements of grass-root communities that tackle the issues in today’s society.
Dmitrijs, aged 14, was nominated for the Positive Role Model award in the Age category, in recognition of his work within the youth sector, his dedication to supporting young people’s mental health and speaking out about bullying. Besides being a Member of Youth Parliament, Dmitrijs is also heavily involved within his local community. He is the Vice-Chair of the Hampshire Youth Network, Youth Ambassador for local Test-Valley based charity Unity and the Youth Advisor to the Board of Trustees for Andover Trees United.
Dmitrijs Meiksans, Member of Youth Parliament for Member of Youth Parliament for North West Hampshire, said: “Shocked is not the word to describe what I am feeling. I feel grateful and thankful to whoever nominated me for this honourable award.”
He continued to say: “I never thought doing something you were passionate about would win you anything. I simply started with a goal to make a difference to young people’s lives and inspire those who have struggled with their mental health and those who have experienced bullying”.
Faith, aged 16, was also nominated for the Positive Role Model award, within the LGBT category, highlighting the powerful and inspiring work Faith does for the community, including her campaign to criminalise conversion therapy.
Faith Oliver, Member of Youth Parliament for Stockport said: “I greatly appreciate my nomination for this year’s National Diversity Awards. I take great pride in being able to represent my community. Being recognised for my work on criminalising conversion therapy and reducing the stigma around speaking up about hate crime makes me extremely grateful.”
Both of these young people continue to make a momentous difference to both young people and their communities and we would encourage everyone to vote for them in their respective categories. Voting is now open until Friday 15th May.
Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council, the charity which organises UK Youth Parliament, said: “Congratulations to Faith and Dmitrijs! I’m delighted to learn they have been nominated for a National Diversity Award for the tremendous social action they have led on in their local communities.
“Young people are committed to bringing about social and political change in their community and I’m excited to hear to see the value of their voices being recognised by such a prestigious award”
To vote for Dmitrijs, please visit www.tinyurl.com/DMKVoteVote and to vote for Faith, please visit www.tinyurl.com/VoteForFO
On Wednesday 12th February, the Youth Select Committee launched its report investigating the knife crime ‘epidemic’ in the UK. The Committee has ruled cuts to important and arguably life-saving services for vulnerable young people have caused a rise in knife crime.
The report, titled ‘Our Generation’s Epidemic: Knife Crime’ is being launched by members of the Committee at a special House of Commons reception in anticipation of a government response. Knife crime was investigated following a 2018 UK-wide ballot of 1.1 million young people aged 11 to 18, in which young people declared knife crime their biggest concern.
Knife crime offences are reportedly at their highest in a decade, according to official figures from the Ministry of Justice. Research from the House of Commons Library also showed that knife crime, particularly where it affects young people, has been a ‘persistent and growing concern’ for successive governments.
The Committee’s key findings and recommendations include:
- Inequality within communities and difference in opportunities provided across the country makes some young people particularly vulnerable to the draw of violence and gangs. The Government should develop a plan with clear targets and deadlines aimed at tackling the injustices which make a young person more vulnerable to knife crime.
- The Government should develop long-term funding plans of at least 5 years to develop effective ways of helping and reaching young people at risk of getting involved in knife crime.
- The Government should ensure that the views of young people and those with lived experience of knife crime is embedded into the Serious Violence Strategy.
- School exclusion should be the last step in a long line of disciplinary measures, and schools should be held accountable for their exclusions.
- The Government should roll back the extension of stop and search powers until the disproportionate targeting of Black men has been addressed.
- The Government should clarify its position on short term custodial sentences for young people who carry knives and to consider whether there is another approach that could more effectively deter young people from continued involvement in knife crime.
- The next version of the Serious Violence Strategy should include an increased focus on restorative justice and other informal criminal justice responses as a first step to a young persons involvement in knife crime.
Rachel Ojo, Chair of the Youth Select Committee, said: “The Youth Select Committee are concerned with the government’s increasingly punitive approach to tackling knife crime.
“If the government wishes to confront the fundamental causes of the rise in violent crime amongst young people, it must do more to address and improve the difficult circumstances many young people are facing.”
The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee, which is supported by UK Parliament, gives young people the opportunity to scrutinise and hold inquiries into topics that matter to them. The Committee is made up of eleven committee members aged 11-18 and include Members of the UK Youth Parliament, Youth Councillors and representatives from each of the devolved nations.
Evidence for the Youth Select Committee’s report on knife crime was gathered in July from a range of expert witnesses, including leaders from the worlds of criminal justice, politics and the charity sector. Just like UK Parliament Select Committees, the Youth Select Committee heard evidence inside a Committee Room in Parliament, which is normally reserved for MPs, and their report will now be sent to the Government for an official response.
Hear from the British Youth Voice Star awardee and volunteering champion, Jess Griffiths, on her life-changing journey through Youth Voice, her award and where the role has led her to now….
Hi, my name is Jess Griffiths and I won the British Youth Voice Star Award for personal development.
Youth Voice has played a massive role in my life over the last four-years in many ways.
My roles over the years have changed quite a lot. I have been a Young Leader, Young Facilitator and I have recently been employed as an Early Help Support worker. I’m now also a volunteer youth worker at Kent Youth County Council, which means I support young people in getting their voices heard.
However, this time four-years ago I would never imagine me being in this great position that I find myself in now.
I started my youth voice journey at the age of 15. At this time, I was very shy and didn’t engage with a lot. I was struggling at school and, with my GCSEs coming up, I knew I needed to find something positive to put my energy into.
My social-skills teacher showed me a poster about the Kent Youth County Council. I wasn’t too sure about it, but gave the elections ago. At my surprise, I was lucky enough to be elected as a member for the Shepway District.
At my first meeting I was very overwhelmed and just wanted the ground to sallow me up! However, I met some other young people there and they seemed nice, so I thought I would give it a go. I also met members of the staff who were amazing! They really helped me to access the youth council by providing me with the time and the support to get me through a traumatic time in my life.
I was a victim of abuse, but they didn’t let me go through it alone, and I always knew there was someone for me to talk to. By September the following year I felt like I had truly found a place where I belonged and had made friends that would last me a lifetime.
Whilst I was at Kent Youth County Council meeting I heard a participation worker speak about ‘HeadStart’ Kent. At the time I didn’t have very good attendance, or a very good relationship with my teachers, and was always told “I was never going to achieve anything in my life.”
I’m a young carer, and so school at the time was a hassle for me. There was just lots going on- and I didn’t have time for it. I had other priorities and was struggling to manage everything at once.
HeadStart came along just at the right time for me. Staff encouraged me to get involved in the central ‘SpeakOut’ group, which was a partnership for young people across Kent to have their say in the delivery of the HeadStart programme.
SpeakOut has been really pivotal for me. It has made me feel part of something. It’s like a dysfunctional family where we all play our own parts! I’m “Aunty Jess” and a lot of the other members had come to me to talk about their problems.
I have been able to use my own experiences and struggles with mental health to help others. I have also learned more about myself, and how to manage situations. I now know that I’m in control and have developed my own resilience for difficult times. I was proving everyone wrong despite my mental health problems and my additional needs. I had this amazing feeling that I was going places.
In 2017 I became a Young Leader of Youth Voice, which gave me the opportunity to mentor and support other young people.
Over last summer, I was involved in designing coproduction training for Youth Voice and was able to deliver this to a group of senior managers and directors within Kent County Council. Now we are rolling it out to staff.
Our aim was that young people would make a difference in promoting youth voice and engagement. New opportunities for young people have come out of this, and it’s great to see that more is now happening in Kent County Council to ensure the voice of young people is taken into account in decision-making, not just with HeadStart.
Even during the training workshop, at the break, we heard managers on the phone to staff asking if young people had been involved- and if not, “they needed to be!” I felt like I had really made a difference to services in my county, and that young people in general were finally given a way to use their voices for real change!
A massive highlight for me must be speaking in Parliament about my co-production training work, as well as my own HeadStart journey. I was able to affirm why it’s so important that young people have access to projects such as HeadStart and Kent Youth County Council. It was great to get across to important decision makers how passionate I am about the service and the work it does for young people, like me.
I was lucky enough to be on the ‘Big Conversation’ panel in March too. It was an amazing way to end my Youth Voice journey and getting the chance to answer the questions that young people had regarding their mental health, personal development, and other important topics to them.
Another highlight that MUST NOT be forgotten is my National Award for ‘Personal Development’! I never thought I was going to get shortlisted, let alone win. I can’t thank everyone enough for all their kind words, especially Claire (my Participation Worker) and the young person that filmed the video. Moments like that are so sweet, and I cry every time I watch the video back, as I had never heard how much I actually mean to people.
I just want to say a MASSIVE thank you to the whole Participation Team in Kent- without you guys I would of gave up a long time ago. You all gave the time, resources and the safe space to allow me to get to the place I am now. Also, a massive thank you to all the amazing young people I have worked with that are so dedicated and inspirational. You all deserve gold for the work you do! I can’t wait to meet many more in my new job role.
As I said towards the start of this post, I am in a completely different place in my life. I’m in control of my mental health and I feel positive in caring for myself and others. I have a good support network around me now, with solid people that are there for me. I have thoroughly enjoyed helping to develop Headstart and youth engagement in Kent Youth County Council and in turn, they played a massive role in creating an environment that has helped me develop and get to where I am today.
If I would have one piece of advice for anyone it would be never be ashamed of what you’re going through or been through, that’s your story that you can create strengthen from! It will be used to inspire others , but don’t let it stop you being who you want to be because YOU can do it!
Hi I’m Sarah Bellamy and I’m a Participation, Voice and Influence Coordinator for Rotherham Council, based within the Early Help and Family Engagement Service. My involvement with Youth Voice is predominantly working with Rotherham Youth Cabinet and Members of the Youth Parliament. I also work with a range of other youth voice groups, such as the Young Inspectors and I have helped to develop groups such as the Roma/Slovak Youth Forum.
My role is to engage young people across Rotherham to help them to have their voice heard within different forums and situations. I help to shape services from a young people’s perspective and involve the young people in assisting with decision making processes.
I have worked at Rotherham Borough Council for over 26 years. I started as an admin worker but soon discovered that I loved working with young people and shortly after completed my Youth Work training.
During my 26 years, I have held many different roles, all of which I have thoroughly enjoyed. I have always ensured that the voice of the youth underpinned my practice and felt passionate that opportunities should be offered to actively engage young people in having a voice and influencing decisions being made on their behalf.
In 2011 the opportunity arose to apply for a post of Voice and Influence Youth Worker and I was delighted when I successfully secured the position. My journey within this role has been focussed on ensuring that youth voice in Rotherham is strong and powerful and also trying to reduce barriers for young people’s participation. I also feel it is important to always remember my youth work background so that all our work is done with young people’s best interests in mind.
There have been so many highlights along the way, and it is incredible to be part of the journey that young people make in their lives. I’ve seen young people who first join us not having the confidence to speak in front of a group, or hold the belief that people don’t want to hear their voice and after engaging with us I then see the transformation. to witness the same young people speaking passionately in the Town Hall Chamber in front of an audience of Elected Members. This is hugely uplifting and shows the strength of participation work and how it can impact on lives from an early age.
It’s so rewarding, having a young person come to a group who has endured bullying and trauma in their lives and watching them gain confidence, self-esteem and self-belief so that they can have their views listened to. Not all young people who get involved in Youth Voice start with the confidence to share their voice, but the work that we do along their journey helps to build that confidence and the journey is as important as the end results.
Youth voice working in Rotherham has enjoyed a great deal of success and we are immensely proud of this and are keen to emphasise that young people have been fundamental in this achievement and service developments. Members of Rotherham’s youth voice groups are regularly invited to high profile meetings, to ensure that their views and opinions are included and help to shape services from their perspective. Young people are frequently invited to participate in Civic Events in the town as representatives of our young people in Rotherham and this builds their opportunity to experience a range of forums and helps other young people feel inspired.
Many individual young people have been recognised for their own passion and achievements locally and have been presented with awards for being ‘Passionate about the Voice of Young People’ and ‘Most Inspirational Young Person of the Year’ award.
I have been awarded the Youth Voice Worker of the Year award for two consecutive years and feel extremely proud of this. I find it incredible that I could win an award for doing a job that I absolutely love and am tremendously passionate about. However, it is all down to the amazing young people who I work with.
The nominations for the award were from the young people that I work with, who have told me since that they secretly completed the nomination form, created the videos and submitted them. They are the ones who turn up week in, week out, working on campaigns, attending meetings and creating presentations. The young people never fail to amaze me with their commitment, dedication and passion and it’s my privilege to be part of this process.