This year, Tory controlled Staffordshire County Council voted to close all youth centres with the blessing of UKIP. Every single youth club in Staffordshire and Kidsgrove will close on the 31st December. This means that all youth provision will end, despite 16000 people signing a petition against the decimation of these much needed services. The youth service also has the responsibility of co-ordinating youth forums, youth councils and the UK youth parliament scheme. I was once a UK youth parliament candidate at 16 and the experience was invaluable.
At a meeting of the Staffordshire Advisory Board, Councillors Mark Sutton and Mike Lawrence, along with Commissioner Sharon Moore, put forward plans to scrap formal youth councils in favour of an entirely online model. This is apparently another attempt to further slash costs, but modernise services. I do love the ‘modernise services’ line, its unbelievably false!
My personal belief is that this is actually a way of silencing young people out of democracy. As we all know, young people have been very vocal about the youth service shut down. Who can blame them? The service has served our communities on all fronts for a very long time and in some cases transformed young lives. What particularly worries me is that progress we have made in recent years involving young people is now going to hit a brick wall. Young people already feel apathetic about local government and politics, so what does this say to them. The County Council should think again, because a lot of the young people involved in these youth forums and councils are usually the leaders of tomorrow. An online service will be completely inadequate and I am not comfortable with the idea of all human interaction done through a computer. We will also have a national youth parliament with no representation from Staffordshire. At a time when we should be on the national stage promoting our County, we are shutting ourselves out.
Without the formal support of the County Council, communities will find it very difficult to put in place their own youth parliaments. Luckily, Kidsgrove already has its own youth parliament and the organisation makes a positive difference in the locality. These things don’t get set up over night and the co-ordinators need to be dedicated to them or they just don’t work. I remain concerned that many local villages and towns in Staffordshire simply wont have the resources to set these organisations up. Only to leave young people without a voice in a fast changing world.
I will look forward to working with young people in the near future to see what we can do to deflect the damage caused by selfish politicians.
On Monday 30th September students of the Kidsgrove Youth Parliament consisting of elected students from Clough Hall Technology School and the University Academy of Kidsgrove visited the Houses of Parliament in London. The educational trip that was funded by donations from the Rotary club of Kidsgrove, The Meadow Residents association and others was a huge success and very rewarding for the young people involved.
The visit included a tour of the House of Commons, The House of Lords and Portcullis House. There was also elections and voting sessions where the young people created their own manifestos and campaigns. Leaders of the groups were then put to the test by making speeches to an audience and then going to the polls to see who won. National voting systems were also explained including the UK’s current system of first past the post and Europe’s system of proportional representation.
The KYP also delivered a letter signed by every member asking the Department of Transport to support Kidsgrove’s campaign for a ramp at the railway station. With the current footbridge members of the public in wheelchairs, elderly people and people with push chairs cannot get to platforms 2,3 and 4.
Following on from the Houses of Parliament visit KYP members got to visit many parts of London and had the chance to go on the London Eye as an added reward for all of their hard work. Many of the young people commented how much they were enjoying the visit as they had never visited the capital city before.
Since a young age I have been passionate about giving young people a voice in our community. This whole project is not about politics or politicising children but about helping young people to understand our democratic system. A lot of people this day in age leave school not knowing much about how government works or their entitlement to vote. This usually leads to lack of understanding and people not knowing how to speak up for their communities. I want to change things and make sure the young people of Kidsgrove grow up to be tomorrows leaders which intern leads to a better deal for us all. If we don’t include young people now we can’t expect them to be involved in the future. Our visit was very successful and I would like to thank the KYP members for everything they have done for our town so far and I am sure the hard work will continue.
Many thanks, Councillor Kyle Robinson