Speaking up for young people in West Sussex

MORE than 50 young people from across West Sussex were able to quiz West Sussex councillors as part of an innovative weekend event looking at the roles of Youth Councillors.

The residential ‘Role, Representation and Accountability’ event was held at Lodge Hill Activities Centre, near Pulborough.

Fifty-three young people attended the event, representing Youth Councils from Billingshurst, Worthing and Arun, Worthing’s Youth Mayor, steering group members from the Phoenix Centre in Bognor Regis, the Children in Care Council and newly elected West Sussex Youth MPs and Youth Cabinet members.

The aim of the weekend was to learn about the role and responsibilities attached to being a representative for young people, to help them be fully accountable as figureheads for their peers.

They were able to take part in workshops exploring what it means to have a voice and how to effectively represent the views of others, including building skills and knowledge in safe use of social media, public speaking, campaigning, project management and how to effectively consult.

The group also had an opportunity to raise issues with councillors and officers from West Sussex County Council, Horsham District Council, and Crawley MP Henry Smith. Worthing Youth Mayor Liam Mills chaired the ‘Question Time’ style panel.

Those sitting on the panel were:

West Sussex County Council Leader Louise Goldsmith

West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Children and Families Peter Evans

West Sussex County Councillor Margaret Whitehead

West Sussex County Councillor Susan Knight

West Sussex County Council Chief Executive Kieran Stigant

Horsham District Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Efficiency and Resources Roger Arthur

Horsham District Councillor David Holmes, Leader of the Liberal Democrats at the District Council

Horsham District Councillor Jim Rae

Crawley MP Henry Smith

Peter Evans said: “Hearing the young peoples’ priorities was eye opening for us all, and we were impressed at how well-informed, committed and enthusiastic they were. This event demonstrated how important it is to continue the involvement of youngsters in Council decision making.

“The event joined together highly vocal and productive young peoples’ groups. This shared learning marks the start of a powerful youth network, and I know that our officers will continue to build on this.”

The successful event was organised by the Voice and Engagement Team, part of the County Council’s Youth Support and Development Service. The team supports the West Sussex Youth Cabinet, Youth Champions, Youth Councils and Young Inspectors in helping young people to have a voice, represent others, and play a part in developing services throughout West Sussex.