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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Listening to Young People to Build a Better Future

Friday, 26 November 2021

The coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic effect on all of us, but the impact has perhaps been the most profound on our young people. While they may be the least likely to suffer the worst symptoms of the disease, as they take their first steps into the adult world our young people will bear the brunt of the long-term social and economic consequences of the past two years.

That’s why I was delighted to join the Chief Executive of Tameside Council, Steven Pleasant, along with a number of other senior leaders and decision makers at Hyde Town Hall earlier this month for the first ever Tameside Youth Summit. Designed and run by the members of the Tameside Youth Council, with representatives from a number of schools and colleges in the borough, the event gave young people the opportunity to speak truth to power about their experiences of the coronavirus pandemic and what is important to them as we look to build back better, fairer and greener.

 

At the beginning of the Summit, we asked the young people in attendance to be brutally honest with us about what they thought, and I’m glad to say that they did not disappoint. What became increasingly clear that to me as I sat down and listened throughout the day is that while they had concerns about the impact of coronavirus, the young people at the Tameside Youth Summit also had much to say about other issues they believed would affect their future such as rising inequality, the role of social media, and the climate crisis. On all these subjects and more they spoke eloquently and passionately, not just sharing their problems but presenting ideas on what they wanted to see done to get them resolved.

This included how they felt like we could do more locally to make recycling, especially cutting down on single-use plastics, easier. They told us about how they wanted to see more effort made to help young people with mental health difficulties through specialised teacher training and the creation of “safe spaces” where they go to talk in confidence. They brought up their concerns around public transport, especially about difficulties in getting around the borough because of bus timetables being reduced since the beginning of the pandemic. They argued to have a stronger voice within their own schools and colleges so that teachers could understand the pressures that young people are feeling due to exams and disruption to their education during lockdown. They confided in us how they saw families in their community struggle during the pandemic with employment on zero-hours contracts, or finding information they could understand if English wasn’t their first language. They spoke out about their experiences of homophobic, sexist and racist bullying, both online and offline.

 

This culminated in the drafting of a “Pledge Card” by every adult in attendance stating what we would do, both personally and within our organisations, to improve the lives of all young people in Tameside. The Tameside Youth Council will contact everybody who made a pledge in six months’ time to see if we’ve succeeded in turning them into action.

My thanks go out to everybody at the Tameside Youth Council who worked hard to put on a successful and thought-provoking Summit, and I look forward to delivering on our pledges to them over the next year. A number of attendees expressed an interest in making the Youth Summit into a regular event, and this is definitely something that I would like to see happen going forward. If the young people who spoke to us in Hyde Town Hall are the future of our borough, it is clear to me that we’re in very safe hands indeed.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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