A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.
In this week’s blog, Charlee Bewsher from Youth Work Unit Yorkshire & Humber looks at whether people are interested in the Northern Powerhouse and how we can involve young people in the discussions.
Who has heard of the Northern Powerhouse? It turns out quite a few people haven’t, or simply aren’t that interested, according to the BBC. In Yorkshire there is division over what the boundaries should be, should it be Yorkshire, with possibly the Humber, or should we have lots of mayors; one for South, another for North, and a third for West Yorkshire? Should it in fact be the North? Although defining that geographically will be a challenge, if most in the South think of the North as anything between the Watford Gap and the Scottish Borders. Those who live in the North are very clear on our borders and the struggles unique to each community. How this plays out will be important and impact on communities, as devolved powers will allow local decision makers to make decisions, allocate resources, and pave the way for a brighter economic future, or so the literature says.
But if most adults who will be eligible to vote for our new Leaders don’t know, or don’t care, how do we involve young people?
The Yorkshire & Humber Youth Voice Steering Group, in partnership with young people from the North West’s Youforia Youth Steering Group (supported by Youth Focus North West and ourselves), have design a project and applied for funding from Erasmus+. The project they have created will increase awareness amongst young people and provide the opportunity for them to meet with those in the know about Devolved powers: local business, politicians, decision makers, and service deliverers. Who knows what these conversations will bring. Will this eclectic mix of adults allow young people to be part of the process? Will they hear the concerns of young people who want better employment opportunities, training, health services, all supported by an integrated transport system? I think many young people don’t really care about saving 20 minutes on a train journey, if only they could get to the train station in the first place!
To start this process, a small group from Yorkshire and Humber hosted an event in partnership with the Yorkshire Mafia as part of Leeds Business week so they could learn about the options. They invited excellent speakers in the form of Councillor Peter Box CBE, Leader of the Council Wakefield MDC, Danny Write, IPPR. Christian Spence, the Head of Research & Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, and Gerald Jennings FRICS, President, Leeds Chamber of Commerce also spoke. The session produced great debate and conversations with a strong desire to continue the dialogue and to look at ways this could be facilitated, including regional youth events.
So this weekend, 25 young people are coming together to develop their skills and knowledge in planning, facilitating, and evaluating events and to hear the latest updates on the Northern Powerhouse. Most of the young people attending already have knowledge of successful campaigns; Devon, for example, was a finalist in this year’s Lifestyle Awards, run by Humberside police. She and her friends created a package of resources around mental health aimed at young people, including a Facebook page, website, and youth training on mental health. Minhaz volunteers with World Merit, working with other young people around the Globe to make a difference. He also got the largest number of votes for this year’s Make Your Mark campaign and closed the recent UK Youth Parliament Sitting at the House of Commons. Pegah has just become the UK’s European Youth Ambassador, having only recently been the vice chair for the Youth Select Committee on Mental Health. I could go on, but you can see the talent and commitment that this group brings and what they have to offer to a devolved North. Watch this space!
Charlee Bewsher, Youth Work Unit Yorkshire & Humber