Councillor Maya de Souza (Highgate) writes:
I had an enjoyable, interesting time on Friday at the Youth Question Time, attended by pupils from Camden’s secondary schools.
Some of the key issues identified by participants were:
* Youth being stigmatised and feeling that their positive contributions and achievements are not recognised
I spoke about the importance of intergenerational activity to break down barriers and also tried to assure young people that the general view amongst adults was not that all young people were a problem.
* Concern about a shortage of youth services and a desire to have more of a say in what programmes and activities are provided.
I said I would try and ensure that there were some participatory workshops to involve youth in designing spaces and planning services, and that we had an interactive website in place. I also encouraged young people to take part in the forums we already have: the Youth Council and ward level Area Forums. (I spoke afterwards with the Director of the Children, Schools and Families Directorate, who said they hold such workshops, but agreed they might be better arranged on a ward basis. She also confirmed that an interactive website is now being designed.)
* Discrimination in employment: young people felt that they were at a disadvantage in the job market.
I spoke about their legal rights if discriminated against and advised that there was legal protection. But that it was most important that they got the necessary skills and training, which meant carefully choosing higher education courses and more apprenticeships and training being provided.
* University tuition fees, the high cost now and the fact that these are likely to rise further.
I explained that Green Party policy is against tuition fees as they discourage young people from poorer backgrounds from going to University. Labour and the Conservatives are for them.
Those who attended and lots of good ideas and a strong desire to take part more fully. It was great to see young people having a chance to have at least an unofficial role in electoral politics. It showed how, if the voting age were lowered, as the Green Party calls for, it would help to refresh and energise politics and reduce the sense of exclusion that young people feel from decision-making.