Blaby District Youth Conference 2008
Throughout the conference on Thursday 16th October, a team from the Jitty ran a live blog so that students who couldn't attend could stay informed of developments that might be important to them. To find out how the day went and what was discussed, read on..
The Conference... Brought to you by your friendly blogger.
Well the day seems to have started well, Adrian briefed the councillors on the agenda of the day, with quite a public feeling of concern about the schools who had "not released any young people for the event".
Apparently a coach failed to pick up a group of young people who had then been told to walk to the venue. Luckily it was only 15 minutes away so the day wasn't too late starting.
Ward: Cosby / South Whetstone
Ward: Croft Hill
Ward: Stanton & Flamville
Ward: Enderby & St Johns
Ward: Enderby & St Johns
Blaby & District Youth Champion
Well the speed dating started with three organisers making sure that everybody knew how that the system would work. The theory goes that the young people are split into groups of four and get 3 minutes to grill the councillors on how they do their job. Personally, I know what I'd do with 3 minutes of interview time with a councillor but from what I've heard the young people have been briefed prior to the event of on what sort of questions to ask. Update to come on whether or not the questions they're asking are their ideas or the ideas given to them.
Luckily our resident Mr Kuang grabbed a score card for the speed dating process. What happens is that the young people ask the councillors questions and mark them out of 10 on various fields. "How friendly?", "How well did they listen?", "Did they understand you?" and how thoroughly did they answer your question?". This would hopefully add a sense of competition to the event and puts each councillor on their best behaviour.
Having a quick nosey around it seems that both the councillors and young people are engaging quite well. Most of the young people seem to be smiling and laughing quite a lot and if someone in a suit who works for the council can consistently make a group of multiple young people laugh - well it says a lot. It seems that the councillors are warming to the process too, with one remarking that three minutes to spend on each group of young people really wasn't enough.
UPDATE: A little bird tells me there seems to be some clear winners and losers of the "who can engage young people the best" competition, with some councillors scoring as high as 9 on some aspects, whilst others are consistently scoring a lot lower.
The Refreshment Break
Well the race to the refreshment tables was considerably more organised and less panicky than one would've expected. It seems the councillors were eager to get there just as much as the young people, I guess you really are only as old as you feel.
I've just come back from the debate and a few questions and issues were raised. A lot of young people raised the issue that a website was needed so anonymity was available, whilst still having access to a medium where their voice could be heard. I pointed out that this very site I'm blogging on, The Jitty is a fantastic resource that's already been set up and yet one of the organisers had decided to set up a site and "link with The Jitty". Personally I don't see the need to create a new system and give yourself extra work. But hey - that's me, what do I know?
During the debate a teacher representing a school in South Wigston stood up and contested the way in which a councilman 'talked down to the young people' and questioned why the council hadn't contacted schools. Apparently the council had been emailing schools frantically and the schools just hadn't replied. It's hard to tell how many people agreed with this comment, but the levels of activity and interaction suggested that the young people themselves might not all have felt as 'spoken down to' as suggested. Hopefully more schools will become aware of this type of political interaction and might be able to locate the time and resources to send representatives along for future events.
During the lunch break we managed to get around and catch some councillors off-guard and got some comments. For the most part people are happy with how the conference is going, with some very positive comments about the way the young people dealt with the situation and made the most of the chance to speak to local authority figures.
The Other Debate
The other debate involved grouping the young people into schools and areas, and each group working with a councillor to highlight the issues specific to their area. If I'm honest there were no real surprises, with crime, safety, transport, opportunities and available resources being top priorities. But this raises a separate question - if these issues are coming up time and time again then why are they still issues?
Here are some of the specific issues raised by each area:
- Nothing to do.
- Park facilities aimed at younger generations.
- Youth clubs either non-existent or badly publicised.
- No variety of clubs - each club is the same.
South Wigston High School:
- Buses in Glen Parva miss out Meridian and Fosse Park.
- Gang Culture.
- County Arms pub is a fantastic resource, why is it not being used?
- Transport costs.
- Transport costs.
- Nothing to do.
- Gang culture.
- Nowhere to go.
- Lack of bike locking posts.
- Unused Tennis courts.
- Website - want a blog (Jitty was mentioned).
- Litter problems - brook full of sludge.
- Want a permanent graffiti wall.
- Peer Pressure.
- No publicity for youth council.
- Cost of Transport.
- Drinking on the streets.
We had the opportunity to talk to Chief Superintendent Garry Forsyth, the South Area BCU Commander at Wigston Police Station about a new initiative design to allow young people to study cases that the police have handled related to youth crime. The idea is that young people will meet regularly with a representative of the police force, elect a leader and then that leader will choose a number of cases from the police files. These cases will then be discussed with the group so that they can examine how the police reponded to the case, and what was done.
The process is intended to be, to quote Garry, 'warts and all' which means that there won't be any restrictions on opinions and everyone is free to say what they think. It may be that the groups feel the police didn't handle a situation well enough and need to be told, but it might also be that they're surprised by the length the force went to in order to solve a particular crime. It's a chance to see how things work inside the police force and what they're doing for young people across the county.
The project is expected to launch in the new year, so we've asked Garry to keep us updated and we'll let you know more as it develops.
We also managed to get a brief interview with the councillor for Glenfield, John Springfield.
What do you think of the conference so far?
I think it's going very well at the moment. I've been particularly impressed by some of the questions the young people have been asking
What sort of questions have you been asked?
They're not necessarily specific questions, but I've been impressed by the fact that they wanted answers. They weren't prepared to be shut up by any answer, they wanted people to be more specific, and I think there have been some very good quality questions.. we all know what the problems are, and a lot are district wide, age wide.
Is there anything that's happened that's caught your attention?
It's just been good to see so many young people who have been prepared to stand their ground, and that's one of the things that's really come over to me today.
Have you learned anything today?
Oh yes, you learn something new every day. I've learned a lot today about the young people - they're being reasonable and not demanding.
What has been your worst moment of the day?
Mine's a personal one, but I would have liked to have seen Glenfield represented here. I'm not sure who's responsible for that.. if it's the organisation, but it doesn't speak good.
At The End of The Day..
After the group-wide discussion, the event was brought to a close. Evaluation forms were handed out, prizes were given and raffles were won. Councillor David Freer received the award for the most friendly and approachable representative, as voted for on the speed dating slips. Unfortunately some of the coaches were late so chaos was inevitable for getting a lot of the young people home, but the organisers stepped in to mae sure that nobody was left out.
Thank yous were given to all the young people, the councillors and most importantly Connor Dexter, the Chair of Blaby Youth Council for helping to keep the entire event in shape. A final closing statement will be posted here shortly by Councillor Karl Coles, youth champion for Blaby district.
For the most part the day was a success, it could've gone a lot better had they made the event a higher profile event. Perhaps a little more persistent chasing of the schools that refused to release young people. Maybe this time something will be done about the continuously brought-up issues young people face.