In early 2019 there were some incidents of anti-social behaviour, and worse, in Hungerford involving a few of the younger people in the town. These were given wide and often quite emotive coverage in the local press and on social media. It also produced a riposte from several other young people in the town who wanted to stress the positive aspects of their attitudes and interests.
After various discussions it was felt that they best way this could happen would be for a youth council to be set up. This would give young people a structured and recognised forum to discuss their aspirations and concerns and would make it easier for these to be relayed to Hungerford Town Council, the police, the Youth and Community Centre or any other local organisation.
There are currently over 600 youth councils in the UK so Hungerford’s would not be moving into uncharted waters. There is also a national organisation, the British Youth Council Association, which exists to assist such groups. It’s home page describes Youth Councils as follows:
Local youth councils are forums that represent the views of young people at a local level. Run by young people for young people, they give young people a voice and enable them to make their views heard in the decision-making process. They give young people the chance to discuss relevant issues, engage with decision makers and contribute to improving the lives of young people within their communities. There are currently over 620 youth councils active across the UK. They work with all levels of local government including Parish and Community Councils as well as Unitary Authorities, Borough and County Councils.
Many details of a youth council – including the aspects of local life that it will be involved with, its budget and to where it reports – are for each community to decide. Hungerford’s, having only recently held its first meeting, is still at an embryonic stage. Its activities have the full support of Hungerford Town Council and it’s hoped that before too long the relationship with the Town Council and others bodies will be formalised to assist in communication and the implementation of any ideas.
Anyone wanting evidence of a youth council in action need look no further than nearby Wantage, where one has been in operation for about two years. This works closely with the Town Council and now has its own budget from which it is able to make grants to local groups, including the popular and successful Sweatbox Youth Club. The members of the Council meet and communicate with the police, town councillors and district councillors and it’s widely accepted that this has helped to give young people in the town a greater involvement and engagement with local life. The Youth Council has also been involved in other projects, such as increasing the number of wi-fi hotspots in the town. For more information on the work it does and what has been accomplished, click here to see the the minutes of its meetings.
After the first meeting, a representative of the Youth Council told Penny Post that its main objectives would be ‘to improve the profile of the young people in the Hungerford area, to help enhance Hungerford’s community spirit, to learn and represent the views of young people in Hungerford and generally to make a positive contribution to local life.’ Some initial practical steps she suggested included activities as litter picking, helping the elderly and volunteering at places such as the library and the Football Club. She also identified some ways by which the Youth Council could raise money in order to help it accomplish these aims.
If you wish to get involved with Hungerford Youth Council in any way, please in the first instance contact [email protected]. Your contribution will be influential as the Council’s roles and responsibilities are still being determined. It is hoped that this initiative will give a formal expression to the ideas and concerns of young people in the town for many years to come.