Democracy in action – giving Barnsley’s young people a voice

It may come as no surprise that many young people are becoming more politically aware and want their voices to be heard on the issues that matter most to them

Barnsley Youth Council is empowering some of the borough’s young people to influence and inform the decisions that affect their lives.

Cllr Tim Cheetham, Cabinet Spokesperson for People (Achieving Potential) explains: “The Youth Council really promotes active citizenship. Members need to be passionate about change and influencing change.

“It’s a real mix of young people who are all making changes for their constituents in different ways, from setting up schools councils to consulting on issues that affect them and their peers.”

The Youth Council is apolitical - issue based not party based. There are three representatives from each secondary school in Barnsley, with Horizon and Barnsley College having four due to their size. 

A core group of around 25 young people attend various committees: working on the youth council’s public profile; monitoring and policy, including their code of conduct; the regional campaign – working with SYPTE and transport providers, along with Doncaster, Sheffield  and Rotherham Youth Councils to develop a transport charter; and national campaigns including votes at 16.

Each committee meets once a month and then a Full Council meeting also happens once a month to discuss findings and how each will progress.

Morgan Stear, 14, Kirk Balk School, said:I’ve been able to get out there and help people.  I’ve been talking to my school’s youth group about starting a support group for anyone who has ever been bullied.”

Dominic Jones, 16 and Brandon Green, 17, both attend Barnsley Sixth Form College and are also Members of the national Youth Parliament.

Dominic said: “I’ve been to regional conferences and get to attend the House of Commons debate. I’m on the National Youth Select Committee on work experience. The findings and evidence will be presented to Government – I would have never had this opportunity if it wasn’t for the youth council.

Brandon added: Being a youth councillor has been great for making contacts and new friends. I initially wanted to improve my public speaking skills and confidence, but mainly to represent my area. I’ve spoken in Parliament at the dispatch box in favour of making transport the national campaign.

Alyssa Butler, 14, Barnsley Academy chairs the work experience committee and it’s something she is passionate about: “It can be hard to find a placement and we hope this will make it easier for schools and young people.  Chairing a meeting can be difficult but it’s a great experience. It’s a chance to grow in confidence, get used to public speaking and build up patience and resilience.”

Tyler Littlewood, 13, Horizon Community College, is one of the youngest members of the youth council. He says: “It’s good to know that I’m working on matters that will affect and improve my future, such as transport and work experience. The effort I put in, I get back.  We’re one big family – I know I can rely on these guys. We sometimes fall out like all friends do, but we have a real sense of belonging.”

The next Youth Council Election will be in February 2019 but it’s never too early to express an interest to stand as a candidate – simply contact 01226 753406.

For more information about Barnsley Youth Council visit https://www.facebook.com/BarnsleyYC/

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