33 Winchester Avenue Walderslade Chatham Kent ME5 9AR

Education outside the classroom www.medwaywatersportscentre.org Alternate e-mail geoffwaters1949@hotmail.co.uk geoffwaters@blueyonder.co.uk Mobile 07906012533

Date:- 16.7.12

Open Letter to Medway Councillors re Medway Youth Parliament Dear Councillor You may be aware that the Medway Youth Parliament is no longer to be managed by the Youth Service and has been moved to the performance and intelligence hub, where research appears to be the main objective. Having worked for 38 years in Education and Youth Services, the last 7 years with Medway I can unequivocally declare that the practice, delivery and quality of Medway Youth Parliament has not been surpassed in any other format that I have read or witnessed around the UK. As an ‘A-Political’ forum it is the basis upon which children and young people gain the experience to develop public speaking, acquiring and arguing a point of view; questioning opinions, learning to be evidential and providing a voice for young people. As a group they have championed causes on the environment, health, youth crime and currently undertaking a petition on Independent Careers Advice. Their experiences have led them to meet and speak with local and national politicians as they develop an understanding of how opinions are formed and democracy allows them to influence decision making. Opportunities have also included representation on the National Youth Parliament and speaking in the House of Commons. (Please refer to their website www.medwayparliament.btck.org.uk/ for further information about their concept, history and campaigns) What therefore is my concern? Medway Youth Parliament has been referred on many occasions as the jewel in the crown and indeed at the recent Try Angle presentations, organised and managed by the Parliament; the Mayor declared that Simon Cowell should visit Medway to see the cream of young talent; which included the recognition of a vast array of young

people across a breadth of culture, age and disability in 8 separate categories, whilst being entertained intermittently by young dancers, musicians and singers all more than capable of being worthy contenders on the ‘X’ Factor. Providing the support and guiding the young people in Medway Youth Parliament to be self reliant have ownership of their programme and give many hours voluntarily to raising the voice of young people in a respectful and positive manner, has been the Youth Service. Why the Youth Service? – Because the Medway Youth Parliament is an informal education environment in which youth workers are trained or have a natural skill set that guides young people in an unobtrusive manner to take responsibility and be independently minded about their representation. This isn’t however something that just ‘happens’ and requires equally time, effort and often many voluntary hours by youth work staff, to provide the platform upon which the reputation of Medway Youth Parliament currently stands. There is no doubt that the need to consider a tough financial base is a factor of life and will be so for many years to come. However you can take a community provision to the edge of the cliff; ready to rebuild when finances allow or you let them fall over the cliff never to be seen again. My concern is you have reached the cliff edge and could be in danger of losing an excellent forum for young people, where their rights to challenge and highlight a proactive voice for youth, will be subsumed by a media intent on the negatives of anti social behaviour; leaving the investment in our communities’ future poorly served, stifling the routes to leadership. I do not know the financial details of the move but fear an adult led agenda will be less conducive to recruitment and the peoples’ skills an essential aspect of motivation will be lost in an administrative jungle in which young people will feel less inclined to volunteer. The questions therefore to ask of you as an elected representative of the community. What was the rationale to move the Medway Youth Parliament out of the Youth Service Management? Is there a financial saving and could it be made elsewhere? What are the risks under the new structure that might impact on the longevity of the Medway Youth Parliament? What ability and or staffing compliment is there to ensure training – including a new member peer led residential, an annual conference, supported travel, the Try Angle

Awards, monthly Parliament meetings (between 40/60 attend), cabinet meetings, committee meetings that can ensure this good practice is sustained? Where will Medway Youth Parliament call ‘home’ and focus their energies to coordinate activities that are essential to nurture? Can the decision be reversed? I write as a resident proud of the history, culture, sporting and educational options available in Medway but fearful that the qualitative voice of youth as projected by the Medway Youth Parliament might be lost. The framework is at risk not by design but the probability that alternative work agendas will deflect from the young peoples’ aspirations and diminish the pride they have in their contribution, or the value felt for their opinion. Young people are the future and I ask you to enquire about the veracity of the proposals for the future of Medway Youth Parliament. Yours faithfully

Geoff Waters

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