Young people from Corby and Kettering were at Westminster this week to showcase their work in a major new community-led project.
Members of Groundwork’s Jam youth group in Corby and BLYS in Burton Latimer took part in a reception to celebrate Young People Friendly Neighbourhoods (YPFN), a Government-sponsored programme that aims to put young people at the centre of the design and delivery of services for young people in their communities.
They talked to Ministers, MPs and leading figures in youth work about what the programme has meant for them.
Kira Buckley from Corby and Jordan Bunting from Burton Latimer gave a speech outlining the difference the project has made to their lives.
Kira, 15, said: “If it wasn’t for the Jam Team I would still be hanging around the streets getting into trouble and fighting. I am now involved in lots of different projects, have better attendance and behaviour at school and work as a young volunteer with Groundwork.”
Jordan, 16, said: “The YPFN project has helped us to get on better with older people, given me the skills and confidence to secure an engineering apprenticeship and captain the under 16 England rugby team.”
The Westminster event also heard a debate on what the future holds for youth services as public sector finances continue to be squeezed.
A key new idea is the creation of youth mutuals, organisations that take on the delivery of some services for young people and are owned and run by the young people themselves.
Don Foster, Minister for Communities and Local Government, told the audience: “Young people are not the voice of tomorrow; they are the voice of today.
“They need to be involved in neighbourhood planning and spending decisions. The government has a responsibility to make sure they are.”
Civil Society Minister Nick Hurd added: “It’s important to seek the views of young people and involve them.
“If you involve the people who use the service you will get a better service.”
He acknowledged that all sectors had to think hard about funding for youth services in a difficult climate, but added that the Government had pledged £10m to support the development of mutuals.
Tim Loughton, who as Children and Families Minister was involved in the development of Young People Friendly Neighbourhoods, said: “I’ve met smart, impressive young people doing smart, impressive stuff.
“We hear a lot about crime and young people, but I want to focus on the 99 per cent of young people who are doing the right thing.”
“They are 20 per cent of the population and 100 per cent of the future.”
YPFN has given young people aged 11-19 the chance to shape and run services with local residents in their communities. Working with more than 1,700 young people in 20 disadvantaged neighbourhoods across England, the programme has been building communities in which young people feel a strong sense of belonging.
It was developed through a partnership between environmental and community development charity Groundwork, Sanctuary Housing, consultants FPM and advice service Youth Access.