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Meeting with Devon Youth Parliament

On 3 March 2021, members of Devon’s Youth Parliament met with key managers and leaders within the Devon SCP to discuss the results of the Make Your Mark survey and put forward the views of young people on a number of priority topics.

This is what was discussed and the actions that resulted from these conversations.

Free university

Young people’s views: This was the top result nationally from the Make Your Mark survey, with access to training and jobs being the third highest result. We believe this high ranking is largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the wider impact this has played – for example, cancelling Year 10 work experience. The hospitality industry is mostly closed, which has prevented many young people from entering their first job. There is also concern around financial future for young people generally. Is a good career only for the privileged few?

Request: To support the campaign for free university places and extend opportunities for young people to access ongoing training and work opportunities. And to make sure that all young people who have missed out on works-experience due to COVID-19 still get that opportunity later.

Action: Youth Parliament will continue to ask other young people about their views on training, jobs and higher education so that we can include more youth voices into this discussion.

Mental health

Young people’s views: This was the top national issue among Devon’s young people. The Exeter Insight Instagram page was created in response to last year’s Make Your Mark results to reach out to Exeter young people, spread information and offer peer support. We plan to rename this so that it is accessible to more young people.

Request: More to be done to support young people early and ensure that their return to school provides chances to talk to adults and get help where needed. Every young person should have a ‘trusted adult’ who they feel comfortable speaking to, and all young people should know how best to support their peers rather than shouldering that burden alone. Young people who care for their friends’ mental health need someone to talk to as well.

Action: Dawn Stabb (Devon County Council’s Head of Education and Learning) will work with schools to provide easy access to support. The upcoming Devon Youth Council will hopefully include representatives from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) participation group.

Greener Devon

Young people’s views: Youth Parliament’s Greener Devon Week took place in October 2020. Greener Devon will now become a year-long campaign. Plastic pollution is a large concern among young people.

Request: More to do, including with large-scale litter picks being considered.

Action: This is part of a wider Devon Plan and young people are keen to get involved.

Domestic violence and homelessness

Young people’s views: Both of these are high local priorities in Devon. Some young people may be experiencing this themselves or know friends who are. Violence may be increasing in unsafe homes due to stay-at-home rules; as such, awareness about increasing violence should be raised. Fundraising for charities could be organised.

Request: Further information about domestic violence and sexual abuse (DVSA) through schools will aid with increasing awareness and signposting you people towards help with domestic abuse.

Action: Work together with young people with the Domestic Violence and Abuse strategy. Michele Thornberry will take this forward.

Young people in abusive relationships

Young people’s views: Young people in abusive relationships do not always know who to contact. They may be scared to tell adults and feel less safe if more people become aware. While teachers can pick up on aspects that seem unusual, being out of school means these opportunities for teachers to intervene have almost vanished.

Request: Young people experiencing abusive relationships need to have support to know what this looks like and what to do.

Action: Improve the information and access to the information available to young people. A challenge set to adults in the session, to look from the perspective of a young person seeking help. Action for the Partnership to ensure there are clear routes to access support and information for young people.

Employment and employability skills

Young people’s views: A lack of knowledge about writing CVs, applying for work, and gaining work experience was also a large concern. Practical support is needed to help young people take their first steps into work. Work experience for Year 10 students has been cancelled during the pandemic which greatly impacts early working skills.

Request: Young people in school would like assistance with learning employability skills and entering work.

Action: Dawn Stabb will be reaching out to schools to encourage teaching employability skills. Fiona Fleming (Devon’ County Council’s Head of Commissioning for Children’s Services) suggested inviting Phill Adams (Employment and Skills Senior Manager at Devon County Council) to Youth Parliament meetings to discuss the work being done to support young people into work.

Socialising with friends and classmates

Young people’s views: Among younger year groups, the inability to socialise with classmates is a concern. Online learning is very distant and unengaging as many students turn their cameras off or lack the technology to engage in the same way as other students. Social skills are very important and the opportunity to interact with classmates and friends has deteriorated significantly over the past year. Young people need these social skills.

Request: Offer opportunities for connecting with peers, having a chance to play and have fun together. Some schools have set this up and they worked well, this could have a wider implementation.

Action: To influence the plans for improving emotional health and wellbeing as a strategic focus for the Devon SCP. Emotional Health and Wellbeing Group to build this into their strategy.

Returning to school

Young people’s views: The members of the Youth Parliament are looking forward to returning to school to interact with their friends and return to classroom learning, they think this is the case from many young people. However, a gradual phased-in approach to returning to school would be ideal as the sudden routine change could be adverse.

Request: Information and support around upcoming exams and GCSEs have been lacking and difficult to follow. Devon Youth Parliament also suggested giving students a choice to continue learning remotely when they wish.

Action: Dawn Stabb will raise these points at her meetings with headteachers across Devon.

Summer holiday

Young people’s views: The idea of mandatory, catch-up summer schools was strongly disagreed with. However, one Youth Parliament member and her dad, who is a teacher, trialled a summer camp during 2020 at her village park. All the young people who attended had something to do and the event was enjoyed by all. It was pointed out by the Devon SCP that any events we organise must be enjoyable and provide fun for those involved.

Request: A Devon-wide summer camp for children and young people was to have fun and socialise, while incorporating education and possibly employment skill development into the activities.

Action: Play events over the summer being organised by the Devon SCP will incorporate Youth Parliament ideas.

Future concerns

Young people’s views: A big concern about returning to school is the potential for COVID-19 cases within the classroom. Another lockdown is also a concern, alongside the potential for further virus variants, vaccine ineffectiveness, and further disruptions to education and home life.

Request: To understand the effect that further lockdowns will have on children and work on different ways to keep in touch and connect if this was to happen.

Action: Any incident management planning to address this concern if we are to close schools again.

Contact between Youth Parliament and Devon SCP

Young people’s views: More regular contact with the Youth Parliament would be welcomed, to begin encouraging communication between the Devon SCP and Youth Parliament to merge ideas together. Obtaining opinions and ideas from a diverse group of young people will help with responding to the needs of young people. The Youth Parliament also welcomes the Devon SCP’s insight into topics they are concerned about.

Action: Contact between the Youth Parliament and Devon SCP to be set up on a regular basis and consideration given to the engagement of young people with the strategic and service development sub-groups. Devon Youth Parliament are working with Schools to develop youth forums where they can engage with a wider network of young people to inform their policies and campaigns.

The UK Youth Parliament Devon is a group of young people, elected by their peers to represent them on issues affecting young people in Devon, locally, regionally and nationally. You can find out more about Youth Parliament and other ways for children and young people to get involved and have their say on matters in Devon.