Young people make a difference in Lewisham

 

On 12 October young people in Lewisham made a difference and elected their eighth young mayor. The key components of this project are the elected young mayor and the work of the young advisors group and young citizens’ panel. Candidates must either live or attend school/college in Lewisham borough and be aged 14-17 years. To stand for election each candidate must obtain nominations from their peers and attend a one-day training session. Here candidates learn how to write a manifesto and run a campaign and what to expect if they get elected.

 

Candidates are encouraged to set up a campaign team and have just over three weeks to campaign. In the past candidates have taken assemblies in different schools, campaigned with leaflets on the streets and used social networking to spread their message to their peers.

 

On the polling day, the Council’s electoral services team runs the election in exactly the same way they do for adult elections. Ballot boxes, voting booths and electoral services are stationed at each secondary school and college in the borough for the duration of the school day plus half an hour on either side. All young people or attending school in the borough aged 11-18 are eligible to vote. The count is held on the following day, again with the support of the electoral staff, and young people assist in the process.

 

The culmination of the process is the results ceremony where the new young mayor, deputy young mayor and young advisors are announced. The second place candidate automatically becomes the deputy young mayor and the third and fourth candidates are automatically invited to serve as young advisors to the young mayor and the deputy young mayor.

 

The Young Mayor Programme contributes to the priorities in Lewisham’s Sustainable Community Strategy 2008 - 2020. Specifically the priority ‘Empowered and responsible’- where people are actively involved in their local area and contribute to supportive communities.

 

The young mayors budget addresses further priorities notably Ambitious and achieving – to Inspire our young people to achieve their full potential by removing the barriers to learning and Encourage and facilitate access to education, training and employment opportunities for all our citizens.

 

In 2010/11, the Young Mayor and Young Advisors have continued to represent their peers at local, regional, national and international events. Working with the Mayor and councillors to feed in to local policy development and working regionally , nationally and internationally on issues of interest and concern to young people. The Young Mayor and the Young Advisers continue to build relationships and work across the local authority and partners, advising on different policy areas.

 

These are examples of the range of activities and events that young advisors have participated in developing/ supporting, or contributing too through conferences and consultations:

Young Citizens Panel monthly meetings and consultations

Positive Aging Board Intergenerational project: Christmas Dinner, Festival and Summer outing.

Youth Advising Police group, YOS, Trident workshops

Termly School Council Meeting

Supporting schools PSHE/ Citizenship curriculum,

Block Parties – community fun days

Policy and partnerships -Our Lewisham Our Say; developing consultation for young people on the boroughs efficiencies.

People’s Day

International Women’s Week Event

Positive Activities for Young People Commissioning

Community Football Tournaments and alternative Sports Day.

Local Assemblies – supporting young people’s participation

Lewisham Link – encouraging Young peoples voice on health and social care issues

SE London Chamber of Commerce – building links with local business.

Politics Outside in – politics for young people; what’s it all about

Creative enterprise project – The People’s Agency

Lewisham Education Business Partnership

Voluntary Action Lewisham CYP Forum

YOU Group Day

Civic Engagements which the Young Mayor and Advisors attend include the Looked after Children Awards, LBL Sports Award, LBL Schools Award, LBL Travellers conference, Transition Day – Contact a family, Lewisham Business Awards, Make a Difference Awards, Pupil Ambassadors Awards. Many Youth and Community Events; Bellingham Community Festival, Ladywell Fields Opening, Police Station Open Day.

 

There is no better way to fully understand the level of personal fulfilment and impact this project has obtained and its future potential than to hear from past young mayors and their advisors. Miguel Gutierrez Astillo, Young Mayor of Lewisham 2008/9 said: "I have never changed so much as in the year that I’ve been Young Mayor. When I first got elected I never realized just how much respect I would get from adults and young people. And just how important my role and opinions were. It has been a brilliant and scary year… but definitely worth it". In July 2009 Jacob Sakil, Chair of the Young advisors stated: "This is one of the ways that we can be influential… do things we want to do… I feel if you want to change things, do it yourself… I think that’s why a lot of us get involved in the Young Advisors", we do it for ourselves".

 

Lewisham empowers, engages and educates young people about the importance they have on local communities and governance. Its impact goes beyond those who have been elected. The Young Mayor project allows young people to have their voices heard and become valued members of the local community.

 

In 2010 the Young Mayor Programme contributed to the Local Government Group paper "valuing young voices, strengthening democracy: the contribution made by youth engagement". And a case study for the IDEA on youth participation.

 

by Thomas Pavan Woolfe

 

Press release (14th October 2011)