Redbridge Youth Council votes to make voices heard
- Credit: Archant
It is 5pm on a Monday evening and about 30 enthusiastic young people gather in a room at Redbridge Council.
This is not an after school club but the borough’s youth council, which is in the midst of an exciting nation wide consultation for young people to decide which issues important to them they want to bring to the attention of Parliament.
The Make Your Mark scheme enables pupils between 11 and 18 to vote for one issue from a list of 10 topics, which have been identified by young people across the UK as matters they would like members of the Youth Parliament to debate and campaign for in the year ahead.
Esah Bannister, 15, from Ilford High School and a member of Redbrige Youth Council, said: “The youth has been given an opportunity, for example to allow under 16 to vote in the EU election.
“If there is a chance for the youth to make a difference, it is possible this month through Make Your Mark.
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“There is a perception of youth as reckless and care free but we do care about others and you can take the youth seriously.
“From what I have seen, youth can demonstrated maturity that I wouldn’t have imagined.”
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In the meeting room of the young borough representatives, pills of ballot papers are being collected by each member to distribute in their schools to give a voice to all young people across the borough.
Zubir Malik, a council employee and one of the leaders of the youth council, said: “Last year 870,000 people took part and about 10,000 were from Redbridge.
“This year, we are hoping 1 million young people will get involved in the consultation.”
Among the issues listed are giving the vote at 16, securing new investment to tackle child poverty, lobbying the government on maintaining its climate change targets, challenging mental health stereotypes and tackling racism and religious discrimination.
Each young person can vote for one of the 10 issues and the top five will be debated on November 13 by the Youth Parliament before being brought forwards to the adult Parliament later this year.
Ailish, 16, from Woodbridge High School, in Woodford, is the longest running member of the youth council.
She first joined three years ago, when she was in year 12, and she keeps a close watch on the day to day running of the council, taking the minutes of meetings and making sure it runs smoothly.
When Ailish joined the youth council, she had little interest in the politics but was passionate about her borough.
“I might live here for the rest of my life and it is for me to decide and make it better. I love Redbridge and this is about my future,” she said.
Esah Bannister, 15, from Ilford High School, was inspired to join the youth council just a year ago, after seeing the youth council debating in the council’s chamber.
In the youth council, Esah has been able to interact with young people on the subjects he cares about.
“You would be surprised at how much young people can do and how ambitious we can be.
“We’ve got a budget of £100,000 to spend on tackling our four main issues, which are mental health, safety on the streets, organising career conferences and creating a new web page for the youth council,” he said.
Ishrat, 13, from Mayfield School, Pedley Road, Goodmayes, discovered the youth council when elections for Redbridge representatives for the Youth Parliament were taking place in her school last year.
For Ishrat, the youth council has enabled her to find a place where she belongs and where she feels she can express her views with confidence.
“I like being involved in what goes on in the borough,” she said.
“It’s something that you are committing to and it’s good practice. I want to go into politics so it’s good for me.
“Being part of the youth council you can see what work and what doesn’t work.”
Lakshan, 15, from Ilford High School, came about the youth council when his friend Esah, who goes to the same school told him about it.
Lakshan followed his friend to his first youth council meeting and has come back ever since. He was delighted to learn his youth council activity were recognised by the Duke of Edinburgh Award, a programme which challenges young people to get involve in the community and rewards their extra curriculum interests.
For Lakshan, the youth council was an eye-opener about the area he lives in and enabled him to feel he could have an impact in its running.
“Before I came, I didn’t know much about the borough and I wasn’t in touch with the area, but the youth council has given me an insight into what is going on.