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Tackling Inequality Together: Giving young people a voice through the Youth Council

Tackling Inequality Together: Giving young people a voice through the Youth Council

30 March 2022
Group of young people smiling and holding their hands together

As part of our Equality Plan 2021-25, we set out a number of important objectives that we want to achieve in the coming years. One of these is to listen and learn from our communities and use this to deliver services that work well for everyone.

Roughly a quarter of our residents are under the age of 24. They are our future, and we feel it’s important to give them a voice. So, in summer 2021, Wokingham’s Youth Council was created to provide a platform for young people in the borough to debate issues which are important to them and challenge and provide feedback to us on our strategies and plans.

Below, we explain a bit more about how the Youth Council works, highlight some of the great activity that’s underway, and showcase how we’re working closely with these incredible young people to tackle inequality together.


How the Youth Council works

In June 2021, all secondary schools in the borough, including special and independent schools, were invited to democratically elect two students to represent their schools at the Youth Council.

Schools were encouraged to put forward one male and one female representative (unless they were a same sex school or pupils identified as non-binary), to ensure an even gender balance; and invited young people from all backgrounds and abilities to get involved.

Meeting once every half term to discuss the issues that matter most to them, the Youth Council is chaired by the Youth MP for Wokingham, with new members to be elected annually. Representatives from the borough council also attend to ensure important information is fed back to the relevant teams.


"The Wokingham Youth Council allows the voice of young people to be heard, speaking on specific subjects such as diversity, mental health, the environment, personal education of finance and much more. I enjoy volunteering here as it brings about a sense of comradery with other schools in the Wokingham Borough to debate and take action on issues that matter to us the most." - Jonathan Dodd, Youth MP, The Emmbrook School


Tackling key issues

At the first meeting in July 2021, the Youth Council outlined several social issues that they wanted to focus on, which directly affect young people in Wokingham Borough. Since then, there have been meetings on climate change, diversity, and gender equality, with the remaining meetings for 2022 to focus on mental health, LGBTQ+ and volunteering.

Within the Youth Council, champions have also been identified for key topics that the students feel are particularly important to young people. This will ensure that, beyond the half termly themes, important issues have a place on the agenda and a student representative.

These topics include gender, diversity, LGBTQ+ rights, climate change, poverty and homelessness, education equality, volunteering and mental health.

“The Wokingham Youth Council has given me the chance to talk about matters surrounding the topic of diversity in a respectful environment. I have the pleasure to listen to what other children have to say about diversity and I can share my ideas about it knowing that I will be listened to as well.” – Dylan Nanda, Diversity Champion and student at The Emmbrook School


Working with local partners

As well as representatives from the council, statutory partners have been invited to speak at the Youth Council meetings and facilitate question and answer sessions.

For example, a spokesperson from Berkshire Against Racism lead a talk at the recent diversity meeting, which was also attended by offices from the Thames Valley Police hate crime team.


Taking on board important feedback

We truly value the opinions of local young people, and these forums provide a great opportunity for councillors and officers to interact with them.

A good example of this is the recent climate-focused Youth Council meeting, where the council listened to young people’s ideas on the draft climate emergency strategy, took on board important feedback, and answered questions they had.

As a result, the council is encouraging schools to set-up Climate Committees to enable regular and more long-lasting conversations with these young people.

The Youth Council will also be asked to review the Equalities Year 2 Action Plan (2022/23), as well as the council’s Anti-Poverty Strategy.


A voice for local young people

Overall, we want to create a feedback loop of genuine accountability, where the Youth Council can bring issues directly to us, and we can bring our projects to them for feedback. We look forward to sharing more exciting updates on the Youth Council in the coming months.


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