THE young people of Newcastle will soon have their voices heard at the highest level – as the city becomes the first in the UK to set up an independent Youth Council.
Newcastle City Council has teamed up with the charity Children North East to establish and support the Youth Council, which will see a group of city youngsters, aged between 13 and 19, elected by their peers to work with decision makers.
The aim is to make sure young people across the city have a say on policies that affect them, such as play areas, education and children’s services.
The council will have a similar role to Newcastle’s existing Elders’ Council, an independent organisation run by and for older people in the city to represent their views and concerns.
A steering group of young people will work with Children North East over the coming months to decide exactly how the council will work on a day-to-day basis and elections to the council are expected to take place later this month The election and voting process will also give young people a valuable insight into politics in the run-up to the General Election.
Steering group member James Bartle is also a Newcastle Youth Parliament representative and is keen to make sure the city’s young people have a voice.
The 17-year-old said: “We all love living in Newcastle, which is a great place to grow up, but we always want to have our say over the things which really matter to us, and we think a Youth Council is a brilliant way of letting us do that.
“We’re all really looking forward to working with Children North East to get the council started over the next few months.”
Work began on creating the Youth Council after city council members agreed a motion last year calling on the executive to engage with a wide and diverse range of young people.
John Collings, acting executive director of children’s services for Newcastle City Council, said: “We already make a huge effort to involve children and young people in local decision-making and time and time again we are blown away and inspired by their enthusiasm, energy and ideas.
“The Newcastle Youth Council will be a fun, inclusive and valuable way of building on that work.
“It is really important that the Youth Council is completely independent from us so that not only is it credible to young people, but it genuinely empowers them to hold us accountable for how the decisions we make affect them.”
Jeremy Cripps, chief executive of Children North East, added: “It seems only right that the region’s children’s charity should be working with the region’s capital city to ensure that the voice of young people is heard and makes a difference in Newcastle.”