The five top issues for young people identified by last year’s Epping Forest District Youth Council Conference are
- Skills for work
- Mental health
- Drug Misuse
Members of the Youth Council attended the latest Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Epping Forest District Council on Tuesday 26 February to present these and other aspects of their work to senior councillors.
Giving young people a voice
Epping Forest District Youth Council was founded in 2008. Since then it has gone from strength to strength while some of its former members have gone on to represent the district in adult roles.
The current Council was elected in 2018 and will serve for two years.
The Youth Council was set up to give young people a voice in their communities. It is supported by Epping Forest District Council but also draws in extra funding through bids to other organisations including the Jack Petchey Foundation.
Highlighting drug abuse
Drug abuse has been an ongoing source of concern to the Youth Council. In the last year, a survey by the Youth Council found 11 per cent of local young people have tried drugs. The survey highlighted curiosity, friends and boredom, as some of the factors leading young people into drug use. Drugs also lead into crime and anti-social behaviour.
‘Legal Highs’ and cannabis are the common route into drug use and the Youth Council subsequently developed the ‘Say No to Gateway Drugs’ campaign.
Helping young people with mental health
Mental Health is another increasing area of concern. The award-winning Mi Life mental health project developed by the Youth Council with the support of the District is another ground-breaking response. Initially working in secondary schools, the project has now been ‘digitized’ to make it available online and a younger version suitable for primary schools is under development.
A valuable consultant in the development of our district
The Youth Council supports many of the District Council’s activities. It is a valuable consultant in the development of new policies, ranging in scope from the Local Plan to the Health and Wellbeing Strategy, ensuring the voice and views of the District’s young people are represented at the top table.
Broadening the debate, Councillor Roger Baldwin asked what impact changes to GCSEs and the wider education system were having. Some members of the Youth Council are in their GCSE year and left senior councillors in no doubt of the pressure involved in taking exams. University, apprenticeships and skills for work also feature highly in plans for the future.
Responding to Councillor Alan Lion, several youth councillors advocated ‘shock-tactics’ to highlight the dangers of pollution, casual littering for the environment as well as the wider problems of plastic.
Overview and Scrutiny Chairman Councillor Mary Sartin, thanked the Youth Council for a professional and enlightening presentation.