(Epping Forest Youth Council) To receive a presentation on the work and current projects of the Youth Council.
Youth councillors A Flynn and B Hodgkinson, and Assistant Community Health and Wellbeing Manager, G Gold, were in attendance.
A presentation was received on the work and current projects of the Youth Council. Set-up ten years ago, the Youth Council had gone from strength to strength. It had celebrated its tenth anniversary at the Houses of Parliament in the company of The Right Honourable Eleanor Laing MP for Epping Forest Constituency, Alex Burghart MP for Brentwood and Ongar Constituency, and the High Sheriff of Essex, James Burrough. There had been 128 youth councillors elected over this ten-year period, and all had undertaken a busy training programme.
Both Epping and Loughton town councils had received presentations from youth councillors about their work, which encompassed various activities from anti-social behaviour meetings, learning first aid, to attending civic events, Remembrance Day and carol services. As young volunteers themselves, they encouraged others to also engage with older people.
Their aim, to raise the profile of young people, was certainly achieved this year with the publication of the Drugs Project Report 2019. The youth councillors had consulted some 3,200 secondary school pupils that they represented, via an anonymous survey. This revealed that almost 89 per cent had not tried drugs but 11 per cent had because of curiosity or boredom. The survey also highlighted that 69 per cent of pupils thought that drugs were easily accessible, especially on the street and online. The survey had also asked pupils about the drugs they had tried with legal highs (NO2 only) being the most popular. The impact of drug taking on communities and the environment through discarded NO2 canisters was also identified as a cause for concern for people in the District.
The Youth Council focussed on young people’s safety. The We ‘R’ Safe project, was a joint collaboration with the Red Balloon Family, and would promote a powerful safety message when it was launched this summer. The Youth Activity Map was also being updated and would be available on the Council’s website by July 2019.
The Youth Council had won a mental health awareness award. It had also received a medal in March 2018 in recognition of its crime prevention project, MiLife at the National Crime Beat Awards, a crime prevention charity of the High Sheriffs’ Association in England and Wales. Some 6,000 pupils had attended roadshows and the project had exceeded all expectations.
Youth councillors attended individual schools within the District and they made presentations to other pupils. They usually promoted their activities via social media, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which gave young people a voice and was what the Youth Council was all about. They participated in events held by the Epping Forest District Museum, Winter Warmer community days and at the District Council Chairman civic functions. They also raised money for charities. This year’s charity was Cardiac Risk in the Young. The Youth Council was funded by the Council and also received an external grant of over £4,800 from the Jack Petchey Foundation.
The youth councillors wanted to continue to raise the profile of young people through their work in schools, particularly in connection with mental health issues, drug awareness problems, to promote the Youth Activity Map and work on the We ‘R’ Safe awareness project.
A members question and answer session followed.
The Chairman said that having worked with the Youth Council over a number of years, its work achievements never ceased to amaze him. The new incoming High Sheriff would also be meeting the youth councillors this July. He praised the Drugs Project Report, which he had found very interesting. Having heard from youth councillors how hard it was for young people who looked after a parent(s), went to school and resumed this care afterwards, he had chosen to raise money for the Young Carers Charity at his Chairman’s Charity event on 28 March.
Waltham Abbey Town Clerk, K Richmond, asked the age range of the young people that youth councillors had targeted for the drug project consultation. Youth Councillor A Flynn replied that students in (school) years 7 to 13 were consulted and by using an anonymous feedback form, which had only asked the area that they lived in.
Epping Town Councillor, B Scruton, said that the Town Council was running the anti-social behaviour and youth strategy group, and asked how they could get other people to be included in all the good work that the Youth Council was doing. When looking at anti-social behaviour and youth strategy more people needed to be involved. Youth Councillor B Hodgkinson replied that people had to want to make a change. All youth councillors gave up their time to do this. They would need to let everyone know about the problems that were happening in our youth and society really. There were plenty of clubs to reach out to them. The Chairman added that most people did not know where to get help, but by sign posting it, this would help. The Safer Communities Team also provided assistance in this area.
The Chairman thanked the two youth councillors and the Assistant Community Health and Wellbeing Manager for this presentation.