This report presents feedback from 2019’s Youth Takeover Day.
Brenda Whinnett (Youth Voice Coordinator) introduced Scarlett Knowles (the Youth Mayor), Ozan Erder, and Mariam Ali (members of the Youth Council) who gave a presentation on 2019’s Youth Take Over Challenge Day.
Through the Make Your Mark survey they learned that the two key issues for young people in the borough were protecting the environment and knife crime.
For 2019 the Youth Council decided to change the format Youth Take Over Day – rather than holding it in the Town Hall and shadowing council officers it became an opportunity to bring in a wide variety of different service providers and workshops around key topics under one roof.
The Youth Council wanted to use the opportunity to educate young people on the issues that they felt were important - and give some advice on what they could do to help. They also gathered feedback on the work the Youth Council was doing, and what other agencies like the police and the council were doing for young people.
In total there were 130 young people at the event and the Youth Council got a lot of valuable feedback from them. Members of the Youth Council then went through some of the key findings from the different zones.
Staying safe zone and body matters findings
· There wasn’t enough accessible information for young people.
· Young people felt ‘talked at’ but not engaged with.
· The Youth Council could help connect young people with services and make them more accessible.
· There wasn’t enough focus on Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) sessions. PHSE didn't have a broad enough curriculum that was relevant to a diverse group of young people (i.e. the current curriculum focussed on heterosexual relationships).
Mental health and work experience / opportunity findings
· Mental health needed to be talked about more. Many young people weren’t confident enough to tell anyone about the problems they faced.
· It was felt that everyone should have the same opportunities to get support – through schools, young people in care etc.
· A more diverse group of young people needed to tell their stories – including LGBTQ+ young people, young people with disabilities etc.
In addition to the areas noted above, Imperial College had a zone where they held a variety of experiences and workshops for young people – including trying to create an app for young people to teach them what they can do when they leave school.
Brenda Whinnett noted that they had also presented their findings at Full Council and were hoping that the committee would digest their feedback and be able to provide suggestions about how to take the feedback forward.
The Chair thanked the Youth Council for their presentation and opened the item up to questions from the committee.
Councillor Alexandra Sanderson congratulated the Youth Council on their successful event, and the report of their findings. She asked them to give more detail about the sexual health research project.
The Youth Council explained that it was just starting up with the Young Hammersmith and Fulham Foundation. The project involved sexual health specialists conducting a major consultation on access to sexual health services. They used Take Over Day as way to get more feedback from young people that would inform their working group.
Councillor Sanderson noted there had been an amazing amount of information gathered and asked if there were plans for a similar project on mental health.
The Youth Council said mental health was a very broad topic so they were focused on social isolation, with a number of the Youth Council already trained as youth champions. The Young Hammersmith and Fulham Foundation have created website to signpost young people to resources. Brenda Whinnett added that the Youth Council had produced a mental health report last year that went to the borough’s headteacher forum.
Councillor Sanderson asked if the Youth Council had any ‘quick wins’ that the Council could implement. The Youth Mayor said the main thing was advertising the available resources to young people. The Youth Council also noted that the Council could do more to encourage recycling, including producing educational resources that covered how young people could reduce their waste.
Nadia Taylor asked the Youth Council how they felt about work experience opportunities in the borough. The Youth Council said they would like to have two-week work experience available in all schools. Some schools had very good work experience opportunities, but others left young people to find them themselves. They also wanted to see more work experience at a diverse range of private companies – e.g. law firms, architects, markets, vets etc. This would require making it easier for firms to offer work experience and offer it at the right time - i.e. pre-GCSE and pre-A-Level so there is time to adjust subject choices. They also wanted to make work experience more accessible – saying that a single online list would be helpful.
Nandini Ganesh asked how young people signed up, or were chosen, for the Take Over Day. Brenda Whinnett said they put on assemblies which were offered to all schools. Young people then applied and were drawn by ballot to make it as fair as possible. She added that they worked closely with the SEND, youth offending, and family services teams from the beginning to ensure it was inclusive.
Nandini Ganesh said it would be good to see more special needs children in the Youth Council. Brenda Whinnett said she was working closely with Jack Tizard to host sessions there and they were trying to improve in that area.
Councillor Lucy Richardson suggested holding Take Over Day on a weekend might help to make it more inclusive. Brenda Whinnett said the venue and the fact that it was a school event made it difficult to hold on a weekend but they would consider it in future.
Councillor Richardson applauded the Youth Council for the successful event and asked if they had considered expanding their reach – for example, by recruiting ambassadors. Brenda Whinnett noted that they invited everyone who attended to sign up and there was a recruitment event scheduled for next week. They also promoted it to schools through assemblies, student council meetings, and were showing more of what they did on social media.
Councillor Richardson noted that the Health Policy and Accountability Committee recently received an interesting report by Healthwatch on digital options for mental health support. Brenda Whinnett said she’d also been sent it and it was on the Youth Council’s list for discussion.
Councillor Mark Loveday commended the Youth Council for getting such a diverse group of young people from different backgrounds to attend the event – including young people from maintained schools, independent schools, and children in care.
Councillor Loveday asked the Youth Council what the one thing they could change about the Council would be. The Youth Council said it would be to put continuous support in place for projects. They felt that too often projects were started but not given the resources to be sustained over the longer term.
Brenda Whinnett added that PHSE was a top priority for young people in the borough. There was a real need to speak directly to young people to understand what they wanted from it. Young people also wanted to see more funding and support for youth services that were tackling social isolation, knife crime, and opportunity. A member of the Youth Council also added that many schools didn’t have recycling facilities yet despite being a top priority for the young people they had surveyed.
Councillor Alexandra Sanderson asked the Youth Council if they felt teachers were the best people to deliver PHSE. The Youth Council responded that it depended on the teacher – some were very good and engaging but some were too serious or awkward. Some schools used external speakers who were often more effective as it was their specialism.
Councillor Sanderson asked how young people accessed information about support - was it just the internet or did they ask teachers? Youth Council members said most people would ask their friends, though that wasn’t an option for everyone. Some people found teachers and other professionals at school intimidating.
Jan Parnell noted that there used to be centrally devolved funding for PSHE but now it went directly to individual schools, so the Council couldn’t directly control what was delivered. The Council would need to work with schools on this in partnership and there was already a high degree of cooperation in place. Schools and the Council were also starting to meet with private schools to cooperate. It was felt that ‘collectively we can do more’.
Jan Parnell added that the borough was lucky to be home to a number of amazing businesses and entrepreneurs and the education team was beginning to tap into those resources. For example, a local entrepreneur had agreed to fund a new portal for teachers to access a range of opportunities to schools such as work experience opportunities, assemblies, supported internships etc. There were also ambitions to set up an H&F alumni portal.
The Chair thanked Brenda Whinnett and the Youth Council for their time and congratulated them on another successful Youth Take Over Day.