WEEKLY COLUMN BY THE STAFFORDSHIRE YOUTH COMMISSION
Eighteen – it’s a golden number… The official age of adulthood in the United Kingdom. At 18, we can vote, we can drink, we can serve on a jury, we can get tattoos, we can marry without parental consent, we can apply for mortgages and buy a house, and we have access to more employment opportunities.
Let’s think back. Do you remember when you were 17? Like us all, I’m sure you were all desperately awaiting your 18th birthdays, all too aware of the opportunities that being an “adult” would bring us (even though we’re still technically teenagers at 18 years-old).
To some, eighteen years of age still signals inexperience and a lack of education. But to others, like ourselves here at the Staffordshire Youth Commission, we value the voices of everybody – especially young people.
Since 2016, the Youth Commission has been providing young people with a platform to have their say on issues that matter to them – both locally and nationally. We meet, speak to and survey young people on topics like knife crime, mental health and drugs and alcohol, to mention a few. But what do we do with what we find out?
We SHAPE services. Using our findings, we formulate suggestions for local services, including but not limited to: Staffordshire Police, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, the Staffordshire Commissioner, and our many partners in both the youth and education sectors.
We also publish an annual report which displays all of our findings. In regard to the issues we discuss with young people, below is a brief overview of what we normally find out from them:
- What young people think about an issue
- What young people think can be done about the issue
- Which groups and services young people think should be working to solve or improve the issue
- What work young people think services are doing right
- What work young people think services are doing wrong
- What work young people think services should be doing
- How young people think that services should engage with them
It’s through our continuous youth engagement strategies – which include innovative surveys, multi-platform campaigns and interesting educational workshops – that we find all of this information.
Earlier this week (Wednesday 6th November), the Youth Commission was invited by the Fire Chief Officer for Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Becci Bryant, down to the University of Warwick to speak to leading figures from fire and rescue services all across the county, as part of their Executive Leadership Programme.
For part of the session, we spoke about own our experiences of youth engagement – both the challenges we’ve faced and the successes we’ve had. Then, the ELP cohort quizzed us with some of their own questions.
It was an exciting experience for us because not only were these leading professionals listening to our every word (many of the group were even taking notes!) but it was refreshing to hear that they understand our purpose because they themselves, and the services they work for, clearly value the voices and role of young people in our society… And rightly so!
This is just one incredible example of when we have been able to provide young people with a platform to have their voice heard – on a national scale, this time.
And it’s what we will continue to do – through our regular liaisons with services, through opportunities offered to us, and through our annual event and report.
We will provide young people with the volume that their voices deserve.
Olivia – Staffordshire Youth Commission Project Coordinator