How many times do we get asked; “What do you think?” “What do you think should happen?”
And how many times do we give an answer that gets totally disregarded?
As a young person who has worked in the youth sector for a number of years now, I have seen first-hand the complete and utter disregard that statutory agencies have when it comes to the feedback from young people.
“Young people don’t know what they are talking about…”
“How would they know, they’re not old enough…”
“When I was a child growing up, we wanted this…”
So why exactly do they ask these questions if they don’t actually value our responses. The answer is quite simple and comes down to the following reasons. Tick boxes, statistics and the generational divide.
The majority of projects and programmes that are designed for young people are currently ran by organisations which have predetermined the needs and wants of young people in that particular area.
Consultations tend to only occur when said organisations have been told to consult for a tick box on a pre-existing application; or when they’ve been told too.
You may now be thinking; who makes all the decisions for young people then?
Well, statistically speaking the average person who sits on a board is a 52 year old, white, middle class male. This means, they’ll be making assumptions based on what life was like for them in the 1960’s and 1970’s and through their now blinkered view on youths.
One prime example which stands out to me came when I attended a meeting where upon I was the youngest by over 50 years. The reason for my being there was in relation to a request made by some young people, in an effort to reduce anti-social behaviour, for the introduction of a new play area and ‘bus shelter’ style building that the young people could frequent after schools and at weekends. It was unanimously turned down. When asked for reasons for its denial, the reasons given were that when there was a play area and shelter there, it was burnt down. 20 years ago. Before the current generation asking for the facility were born.
Another example included a panel meeting as to when a youth night was going to be established in an area of North East Lincolnshire. Youth and Community workers had been out most nights for four weeks to speak to as many young people as possible to work out when they should hold this night and what activities would be best.
The young people chose a Friday. It was put on on a Tuesday.
They asked for music and a games console. They were given board games.
It’s a busy anti-social behaviour night involving young people so the workers will be busy dealing with that. Surely, it would make sense to hold it on this night, to contain and entertain the young people?
Being on the other side, I do appreciate that when it comes to funded projects, that no matter how great your consultations and feedback is, they’ll only fund they’re own predetermined outcomes.
Additionally, I have noticed a significant change in young person’s attitudes over the last two years. When I first started in the youth sector, young people were shy and did not like to speak out and voice an opinion. This can no longer be said.
Every day, more and more young people are standing together and using social media to make a change and make their voices heard. Despite years of requests, it’s on this year that we have seen the re-emergence of youth centres and clubs across North East Lincolnshire.
Movements and Lifestyles such as Extinction Rebellion and Veganism are allowing young people a platform and voice that is forcing those in charge to play new hands to keep up.
Whilst the voting age remains at 18, I feel that young person’s voices are reaching new levels and are finally being heard. When it comes to climate change, single use plastics and mental health, there are no stronger or better advocates for change than that of the young person. After all, it’s their futures and their children’s future.
Article by Young Reporter Victoria
Appeared in Grimsby Telegraph 3rd September 2019