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.