After a whirlwind weekend of discussions and politics, Youth Advisory board members Katie Jones and Bianca Drotleff reflect on their experience at the Labour Party Conference 2018 and the significance of this year's Inclusive Spaces campaign.
On the weekend of the 22nd -23rd September, Bianca and I attended the 2018 Labour Party Conference's Youth Zone in Liverpool to speak about the fantastic work the Groundwork Youth Network has been doing and share learnings from our recent Inclusive Spaces campaign. We wanted to take questions around why we need the government to support youth engagement with community green spaces right to decision-makers and our peers. We were also there to present our big question to attending MPs, which has been generated from the aims of the Inclusive Spaces campaign:
‘Cuts to council budgets means communities are having to take matters into their own hands to sustain local projects and services – from parks to youth clubs. What does this mean for young people and how can they have a say in decisions that will affect their future?’
We attended alongside young representatives from a variety of youth charities and organisations, such as Girlguiding, UK Youth and St John's Ambulance, and covered several other issues facing young people, including mental health, loneliness, the effects of social media and how these issues link to lack of engagement with youth services.
This opportunity came at a very important time for youth organisations as the Labour Party have recently launched a consultation for building a Statutory Youth Service. Should they win the next general election, Labour have proposed to establish a national body with protected funding for youth service provision across England, which would work with youth partnerships in every local area to support service delivery across the country.
Labour have stated that they are ‘committed to creating a quality youth service for all young people’ in response to recent analysis that local authority spending on youth services has fallen by 52% since 2012 (Labour, 2018).
The main aim of the proposed Statutory Youth Service is to ensure young people are entitled to inclusive, open access youth services, which links appropriately with the aim of this year's Inclusive Spaces campaign. The Inclusive Spaces campaign has put particular focus on youth engagement with community green spaces and community groups, following findings that young people are dissatisfied with the quality of their local parks and community groups want to work with younger people, but are unsure how to build those relationships.
Based on these findings, we wanted to make sure that green spaces were recognised for the proven environmental, health, wellbeing and social cohesion benefits that they bring to young people and other members of the community.
During the conference we noticed that green spaces were not mentioned in both the Labour Party manifesto and the recent Statutory Youth Service proposal and decided this was something that needed to be brought to the attention of MPs.
During a Q&A session with Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth MP, Bianca highlighted this fact and emphasised the proven mental and physical health benefits green spaces can bring to young people. Following this, during a round table discussion facilitated by Groundwork Youth, key issues relating to youth engagement with local and green community spaces were mentioned , including lack of promotion of services, lack of funding and lack of school involvement.
Overall, the Youth Zone sessions identified key links between youth services and health, the need for better funding for these services and the recognition that these services have a key part to play in improving the health and wellbeing of young people. It was also a fantastic opportunity to share and reflect on the experiences of Groundwork Youth with other youth organisations in order to look into the future direction for the network.
Young people have been negatively affected by cuts to youth services and so it is more important now than ever that we are able to make our voices heard and hold the government accountable. By ensuring we have a say in them will also help protect them in the future.
If you would like to have a say on the proposed Statutory Youth Service, you can find out more information on the Labour Party website on how to take part in the consultation. Otherwise we recommend you get in touch with your local MP to see what they can do within your local area.
Katie Jones and Bianca Drotleff are both members of Groundwork UK's Youth Advisory Board and both took part in shaping and developing the direction of the Groundwork Youth programme.
Enjoyed this? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter! Follow us and tweet us @Groundwrk_Youth
Our friends at Shout Out UK wrote a powerful blog reflecting on the discussions had in our roundtable - head over to their website to have a read!