The Furry Youth Café, Helston set to reopen in September

The good news is Furry Youth Café which is located above Warren’s Bakery in Helston is set to reopen on the 6th of September. This venue will at first open on Tuesday’s and Friday’s from 7pm to 9pm each week.

Anyone between the ages of 11-18 can attend, no matter if you live in Helston, Porthleven, the Lizard area, or the wider villages. The catchment area is really for those who attend either Helston College, or Mullion School.

The café is free to attend, and there will be a series of structured activities taking place, plus plenty of time to just relax.

As one of the directors of the Furry Youth Café, I am really pleased we are able to reopen after what seemed like ages of being closed. We are also excited to be working with PCDT to deliver the youth service in side the café. Penwith Community Development Trust is a  Cornish charity with the aim of reducing poverty, social isolation and support healthy living.

However, before the reopening, there will be a fun day at Helston AFC on Wednesday 24th August between 1pm and 4pm. This fun day enables those attending to meet the team, and see what the Youth Café have to offer. This fun day is not just for young people, but parents and carers are very much welcomed too. That way those parents and carers will see what is on offer at the café.

The launch poster

The launch poster

For anyone reading from Porthleven, and wondering what is happening in Porthleven, I am putting a proposal to Porthleven TC in Sept.

Furthermore, I know for some transport is an issue for those in Porthleven and I am again working on something that could enable young people from Porthleven get to and from the café for free.

Young People’s takeover day at Cornwall Council.

Last Friday saw a group of young people hold their takeover day at Cornwall Council. It was great to see so many young people at the Council raising their profile.

During the day, the young people were on hand to answer any question Councillors and Officers had, but more importantly, to ask questions too. The young people also showed a selection of films about young people.

There was a session where the young people could ask senior officers from the Council and Health. I was there too in my capacity as Lead Member for Children and Young People.

The question raised by the young people where on such subjects as do the Council have young people as a priority, CAHMS, Children in Care and Youth Services. It was great to hear and be subjected to a series of questions. Hopefully, those on the panel were able to answer all the questions to the satisfaction of the young people.

However, there was some concern from the young people on why there was so few Councillors in attendance. The young people also wanted to raise their profile with Councillors and will be looking to contact them in the future.

It was a great day and look forward to the event next year.

Bite the Ballot and getting young people engaged in democracy

I spend Monday morning with a group of students (aged 15 to 17 years old) from Newquay’s Treviglas School discussing democracy and why voting is important. This discussion was part of Bite the Ballot’s campaign to get young people involved in democracy.

Bite the Ballot, is a not-for-profit organisation that empowers young people to speak up, act, and make their votes and opinions count. For four years, Bite The Ballot (BTB) has been running interactive democracy workshops with young people up and down the country, demonstrating the power they hold as individuals and as a collective voice. BTB aims to inspire young people to be counted and make informed decisions at the ballot box, encouraging them to #TakePower and become the champions that will change the face of British politics.

In the 2010 elections, over 75% of people aged 65+ voted. This group received free bus travel, free TV license, free prescriptions, winter fuel allowance to name but a few. Compare this to only 44% of young people voted. They had EMA taken away, tuition frees tripled and youth services are under huge pressures and reductions. Is this related? Yes, it is. If young people were more engaged and had the ability to vote, then maybe the services young people value would be on a more even footing.

During the visit, there was a series of group activities. This first one was deciding where you would spend a ‘government budget’ of £100. The choices were education, health, defence, welfare and benefits, housing and environment, transport, public order and safety, culture and sport and international aid.

It wouldn’t surprise you to see education and health coming out on top. Defence came seconded to bottom and that did not really surprise me. However, international aid came bottom, and when I asked why, the student group said we should make sure our services are sorted first. It was very interesting to hear their logic on the other areas too. The students really had good points to make.

I am very keen to support Bite the Ballot’s campaign to encourage young people to get involved and make sure their voice is heard. Winston Churchill once said “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” We should also remember those who gave their lives to ensure that we are free to vote as we wish, it is important that we take on that responsibility and encourage others to make sure their voice is heard.

Young people can register to vote from the age of 16. My view is if you can register to vote at 16, then you should be able to vote at 16. The Scottish Referendum has shown how well the 16/17 old vote works, and I hope the Government brings in legislation to lower the voting age.

IMG_4616.JPGTo find out more about BTB online presence go to HERE

BTB also wants to hear from schools, colleges, youth clubs or universities who are interested in getting BTB to come along and run a session on “The Basics”. If you are interested, email BTB at cornwall@bitetheballot.co.uk and help us in the fight to create a better democracy.

Registering to vote has never been easier. All you need is your address and your National Insurance number and go to HERE

Young People from Bosnia-Herzegovina visit Cornwall

Last week, 12 young people from the towns of Mostar and Stolac in Bosnia-Herzegovina visited Cornwall to learn more about Cornwall’s culture and exchange experiences with the young people from Cornwall. The exchange has been organised by the Nansen Dialogue Centar in Mostar, and Cornwall Youth Forum.

I had the privilege of meeting the Bosnian-Herzegovian young people when they came to New County Hall for a  presentation on Saturday. I was asked many questions both in my role as the Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People and that of the governance of Cornwall Council; and how it impacts on young people in Cornwall. Their English was excellent, as were their questions. It showed these 12 young people were really engaged in not only the issues in Bosnia, but now having an understanding of issues in Cornwall.

As a final part of the day, I was given a presentation on the weeks visit. From that presentation, you could see the strong links which been formed between the young people of Cornwall and those of Mostar and Stolac. I hope the young people from Cornwall will be able to experience the culture of Mostar and Stolac in the near future.

Huge credit should go to the organisers in both countries for an excellent exchange programme.

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The young people of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Cornwall give their presentation

Young People’s Question Time at Cornwall Council

Cornwall Council hosted a Young People’s Question Time in the council chamber today. Organised by the young people themselves via the Cornwall Youth Forum and the MYPs, the event was split into two panels. The audience was drawn from various schools in Cornwall.

The first panel consisted of George Eustice MP, Cllr John Wood – Chairman of Cornwall Council, The Director of Public Health and three MYPs Amy, Tabitha and Talia. I was invited to the second panel and was joined by Dan Rogerson MP, Anna – Senior Manager Directorate Support of Children’s Service and three MYPs, Jaspa, Tia and Ben.

The topic for the second panel were on the Curriculum for Life, youth employment and opportunities. It was good to hear all the panel members agree on the idea of the Curriculum for Life, which includes subjects of relationships and sexual education, financial education, political education and Health and Wellbeing which includes mental health issues being mandatory taught in schools.

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Many of the young people in the audience raised the worry of debt by going to university and actual jobs once they have finished. The panel spoke on how it was important for young people to get the best advice before they make their educational choices. Explained how people only start to pay them back when you receive a certain income. In fact, many people never pay back their loans within the repayment time.

The last topic, public transport, got the most questions from the audience. Questions raised from the lack of a reliable service, or service at all. the state of the buses and the huge cost of using public transport. The young people asked why they cannot have a concessionary fare scheme like those over 65 receive. Sadly, the panel had to explain that many bus routes are run without any subsidy from the council and therefore, the council had no say in the service. The same with the pricing. I wish it was different, and there was money available to subsidies more routes.

I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the event and I hope the young people in the audience got the answers they wanted. It would be good to have more events like this, with different panel guests drawn from areas that concern young people

Official Youth Representation on a Cornwall Council Committee

Today saw a massive step in forward of getting young people involved in decision making at Cornwall Council. After a few years of talking about and working on the idea via a Single Issue Panel (SIP) of the now defunct Children’s Scrutiny Committee; a very positive decision has been made by the Children and Young People Portfolio Advisory Committee (CYPPAC) to allow official youth representation on the CYPPAC. This now means Members of Youth Parliament (MYP) will now be part of the CYPPAC committee structure.

By having the MYPs taking part, policies and services that concern youth can have a very early youth view. This will lead to I hope services that the youth want. Today’s decision will allow the MYPs to have access to all the relevant information enabling them to take part in the decision making process. With this information The MYPs will also consult other young people groups – via a clear structure – asking for comments before coming to the PAC to feed in the views of children and young people. It would be great if every youth group had a direct access to the CYPPAC, but that would not be feasible.

I feel this is just the first rung of a very important ladder of getting young people involved in how the Council carries out it business and more importantly, influences polices. In time I hope other PACs will a adopt similar process.

For me, this was one of my main priorities as a former member of the scrutiny committee and now as the Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People, something I fully support. I did hope the PAC would give a unanimous decision of having official youth representation on the PAC, but sadly, one member decided to vote against the proposal.

The document surrounding the process and original report can be found HERE

The success of Young Mums Will Achieve

Life, when you least expect it can throw you a curve-ball which can change put you on to a new path. This could be falling pregnant whilst still at school. The consequences of dealing with all the pressures of becoming pregnant and in turn becoming a young mother, your education and taking those vital GCSE’s is often the first to fall by the wayside.

This is why the Young Mums Will Achieve project is such an important service provided by Cornwall Council to help gain those vital qualifications. This award winning project aimed at pregnant and teenage mums aged 14 to 19 years. The group meets twice a week to provide support, guidance and learning in a relaxed non-school environment. The programme runs for a whole academic year. Childcare is provided by Fit & Fun Kids and is fully funded as part of the provision on offer. Transport is also funded and provided for the programme by Cornwall Council at various locations throughout Cornwall. More information can be found HERE

This week I had the great pleasure to award certificates to over sixty young mums who had completed the course and had gained those vital educational qualifications; when it could have been so easy not to.

The different YMWA groups gave presentations on their experiences of the project, and how it had helped them achieve those qualifications. It was good to hear the young mums talk about how many of them have been accepted to do college courses. They were -and rightly so – very proud of their achievements.

It just shows projects like YMWA really work, and without these projects, most if not all would have not gained those qualifications that are so needed to get a job, attend college or university. to round the event off, all the babies and children either got a rubber duck, or bubbles.

Children’s University Awards at Tremough Campus

Earlier this week, I had the great honour of being invited to say a few words and present graduation certificates to over 70 young people at Tremough Campus who had taken part in the Children’s University programme.

The Children’s University (CU) Trust offers 7 to 14 year olds (and 5 to 6 year olds with their families) exciting and innovative learning activities and experiences outside normal school hours. The key to the programme is learning is fun, and it is not just about what you learn inside a classroom. This programme is supported by Cornwall Council.

For me it was great to see so many young people getting their certificates and the impressive range of activities they carried out as part of the programme. The awards ranged from 65 hours to a few that had amassed 600!

However, it was not just the young people who should be proud of their achievements, but also the parents, carer’s, family members and group leaders who helped the young people with the many lifts, support and time that enabled the young people take part.

Credit should also go to Lisa and her team for making this project the success it is. Finally, a big thank you should go to the campus, its staff and their Student Ambassadors who helped make this event such a success.

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Visit to Active 8

Yesterday, I and a Cornwall Council officer (Chris), visited the Cornish charity Active 8. The charity is based in Falmouth, but reaches the whole of Cornwall. The reason for the visit is Cornwall Council Children’s Schools and Families OSC is looking at how to improve communication, and involvement between young people projects, and see how they can take an active part in policy and the decisions that are made.

For those who may not know, Active 8 is a small Cornish charity, providing two years of fun and challenging experiences for young people with a physical disability, followed by opportunities for young adults (the After Eights) to stay in touch with each other as they start their adult lives. Their website is HERE and is definitely worth a look.

During the visit I met Mike and Richard, along with Active 8’s youth worker Matt. After the introductions, Matt asked each of us which new super-hero would we be as an ice-breaker. I won’t tell you who we would be, or the names, but it was very funny.

As I said, the aim of the visit was to see how these young people felt about Cornwall Council. It was nice to hear that Cornwall Council was good, and it really did try to do its best, though not always getting it right. This was good to hear from people who have had first hand experience of Cornwall Council. I also explained my role as a Councillor, and how that can work as a link between various organisations; plus be there to  help when needed.

It was good to hear how they felt things at Cornwall Council could be improved, their frustrations and solutions to problems. They felt they would like more information about Cornwall Council and services it provides, with regular updates from the council. They felt it was often hard to find out information, or it was not that user-friendly. Issues they raised were taxis, access to beaches, drop kerb, information on services and housing.

The real important message is they wanted to engage with the council and help the council with finding solutions that those with a physical disability faced . This I very much welcome, as with better communication and understanding, we might just overcome the issues.

Huge credit should go to the people behind Active 8 who run a really inspiring program. It was great to meet Mike, Richard and Matt and I look forward to them visiting County Hall in the New Year.

Talk To Me Young People Event

Last night I was invited along with some of my fellow Cornwall Councillors from the Helston and Lizard area to talk and more importantly listen to 14-16 year olds. Also in attendance were the Police and members of Helston Town Council. This event was hosted by Cornwall Council’s Youth Service. After a brief introduction it was down to business.

Each Councillor was given a subject to cover, and mine was ‘Futures and Opportunities.’ A rather open topic. Some of the other topics were education, employment, health, public transport, and social life. The young people then in a sort of ‘speed-dating’ style came to each table and talked about various issues. I must have talked to at least 30 young people during this process.

When I asked a question on do you see your future in Cornwall or out of it nearly all the young people replied “out of it.” I asked why, and the answer was the same, “better opportunities out of Cornwall.” I then asked them for reasons they saw their futures out Cornwall. These came firmly along the lines of poor wages, bad public transport, high house prices and lack of employment prospects.

Most of the 14-16 years old wanted to work to earn a little bit of money, but they said employers do not want to take them on because they have no experience, and when they do, they pay such a low wage (some said slave wage) it would not even cover the bus-fare to get to work. Buses got a lot of criticism on poor service, high fare prices and the general unreliability of trying to catch a bus that was on time, or turning up.

The event was not just to raise issues, but how these issues could be solved. No magic want can be waved, but all the Councillors present who took part in the event said more must be done, and Cornwall Council should be applying the pressure to companies and organisations to help solve some of these issues. For instance, concessionary fares for under 18’s, open Cornwall Council owned building in the evening for community groups to use, and helping young people find employment. These are just a few of subjects and topics that the council can and should help with.

I fear these young people are being damaged before they get into adulthood because of lack of opportunities at this stage of their life’s. After all, these young people are our future, and if they all see their futures out Cornwall that will be detrimental to Cornwall itself.

Furthermore, most said Cornwall would be a great place to retire to, and they would do so.  We must do more to stop the brain-drain of our young people and turning Cornwall into God’s waiting room.