Thames Gateway and the Olympics

New youth panel gives young people and their communities a stronger voice in Whitehall

Published 15 October 2008

A new team of 'youth advisors' was unveiled today by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears today as a 'voice for young people' on key issues from turning around run down areas to supporting vulnerable people and building communities that young people want to live in.

Today saw the first of a series of monthly meetings on the Department's issues ranging from youth homelessness, Thames Gateway regeneration to community cohesion and the Olympics legacy.

The two new youth advisors Hazel Blears met today will be supported by a panel of seven other young people who will meet with the Communities Secretary every three months. In between meetings the two advisors will discuss and debate with the rest of the panel.

Today's meeting focused on young people's views on making green spaces - like parks, piers and town centres - more attractive to young people and protecting them from vandalism. More specifically, they were asked what they thought green space in the Thames Gateway should look like. The Minister asked her new advisors to report back after discussing ideas with the rest of the panel.

The new 'Young Advisors' panel will be an opportunity to influence or give a young person's perspective on government decisions that affect young people. This acts on recent proposals to put more power into the hands of communities - and younger people themselves - in this summer's White Paper Communities in Control. The White Paper also proposed establishing a Minister's shadowing scheme and internships with councillors for young people to get an insight into their work and break down misconceptions.

The panel members range from 15 to 20 years old and were handpicked by the Hazel Blears from across the country from the established national pool of 'Young Advisors'. There are around 300 young advisors across the country and they have received accredited training and are familiar with speaking out on young people's views to adults as part of their work locally. They also have an established network of peers in their local communities with whom they can discuss issues and seek views.

Hazel Blears said:

"Young people are enthusiastic, energetic and care about their future with good ideas that should not be overlooked. But while most young people don't vote and many seem disaffected with traditional politics, over two thirds of 18-24 year olds say they are interested in local issues - and young people are often willing to volunteer.

"My youth advisors panel will champion young people, their views and ideas. I can hear first hand how decisions in Whitehall might affect young people to ensure their voice is heard."

Youth Advisor, Rory Birch, age 20 from Heywood, Lancashire, said:

"I am very pleased to be on the Panel of youth advisors with the experience of making a difference locally. It will now be interesting to see what difference we can make nationally. I feel privileged to be selected to work on the panel and proud to represent my region of the North West.

"It's important for young people to have their voices heard as we have our own views on how things are and our opinions will shape the future. Young people are human beings like everyone else and deserve an opinion. To add to this with all the negative press and issues surrounding young people in these times, something needs to be done about it and the idea behind the youth advisors panel is definitely a step in the right direction. I look forward to the challenges ahead."

Youth Advisor, Jacqueline Macaulay, 19, from Southwark, London, said:

"I feel incredibly privileged to have been selected to sit in the panel and know that it is a fantastic opportunity not just for myself but for all young people in general. There is a saying that young people are the voices of tomorrow but it must not be forgotten that we are also very much a part of today's community. Therefore it is logical that we are included in the decisions that affect us and the wider community.

"The introduction of this panel has shown that not only has Hazel Blears and CLG recognised this, but they have taken it on board. They have given us the opportunity to demonstrate on a higher level that young people are capable and responsible enough to make important decisions that affect a large number of people. In doing this they have a set a precedent which I hope every department within Government adopt."

Gary Buxton, Chief Executive of the Young Advisors Charity said:

"It's great to see how young people who are part of the Young Advisors movement can be making such a difference locally, regionally and nationally. Meeting with Hazel personally will demonstrate to young people all across the country how important they are in today's world."

Notes to editors

1. Most young people don't vote and many seem disaffected with traditional politics. Yet 67 per cent of 18-24 year olds say they are interested in local issues - and young people are often willing to volunteer.

2. The two youth advisers are: Jacqueline Macaulay from Southwark, London (age 19), and Rory Birch from Heywood, Lancashire (age 20). The role of the youth advisors will be to meet with the Secretary of State, Hazel Blears on a monthly basis to give a young person's perspective on departmental policy issues which have particular relevance to, or impact on young people. They also have the responsibility to feed back these discussions to the other panel members and obtain their views for future meetings.

3. The remaining panel members are: Amanpreet Ahluwalia from Coventry (age 20); Jenna Young from Knowsley, Liverpool (age 18); Khadeem Sharif Rashid from Luton (age 17); Letitia Joseph from Luton (age 18); Lisa Harvey from Middlesbrough (age 20); Rachael Salter from Dudley (age 18) and Sean O'Halloran from Chingford, Essex (age 15). Panel members will receive feedback from the youth advisors' monthly meetings and be required to gain feedback from a wider audience of young people in their local areas. Full panel meetings will also be held with the Secretary of State, Hazel Blears on a quarterly basis.

4. The 2 youth advisors and 7 panel members were selected from the national pool of 300 Young Advisors. Young Advisors are aged between 15-21 and are trained as young consultants to help public bodies engage meaningfully with young people, allowing them to influence the design, choice and quality of local services affecting them. There are now 39 schemes with approximately 300 trained Young Advisors throughout the country. Further information about Young Advisors is available at: www.youngadvisors.org.uk/ (external link).

5. The White Paper Communities in Control, published in July 2008, set out proposals to deliver a fundamental shift in power, influence and responsibility into the hands of communities and citizens. The press notice is available at: www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/886224. A summary of the White Paper, www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/summarycommunities.

6. The White Paper proposed to establish direct access for Young Advisors to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. In addition, it committed to support the Young Advisors Charity to make Young Advisors, a model initiated by Communities and Local Government in 2005, available in more local areas.

7. The topic discussed at today's meeting relates to Communities and Local Government's work with a wide range of stakeholders to develop a Parklands Vision for the Thames Gateway which was launched on 9 October. The vision focuses on the regeneration and development of green and open spaces in the region and the creation of a coherent landscape, to improve the quality of life for residents and help to deliver a sustainable environment.

Case Studies

Jacqueline Macaulay

Nineteen year old Jacqueline is a law student from Southwark, London, and has high ambition, with her sights set on being a lawyer when she graduates. She believes that only young people themselves can change the public's opinion of youth, and is determined to show them through her own actions.

Jacqueline became a Young Advisor to voice her opinion and the opinion of her peers in a way that could impact society, and wants to help act as a median between the two generations.

In the two years Jacqueline has been a Young Advisor she has been involved in an impressive number of community projects. National projects include consulting with Communities and Local Government on the 'Youth participation Strategy'. She has also helped councillors connect with young people, worked on research for the Councillors Commission, helped the police improve their Stop and Search policy, and organised an award winning 'Bringing Generations Together' event.

Rory Birch

Rory Birch is a twenty year old student of sound engineering from Heywood, Lancashire. Having worked for the community since 2006, Rory has been involved in many community projects in his local area, and was actively involved in the national meetings informing government policy in the Communities in Control White Paper.

Rory is passionate about helping deprived communities and has enjoyed getting involved in order to make a change in his area. He is currently involved in a review of local sexual health, drug and alcohol services for young people, and in 2007, he organised a local budgeting event in which local people helped decide how £10,000 was divided between 12 local youth groups.

Rory recently joined his passion for community work with his love of music, raising the funds for, and hosting a successful urban music event for the young people in his area.

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