I love the energy and passion that young people bring to political discussion. It is always a tonic to hear their ideas and enthusiasm.
I recently met three local young people who are Stockport’s representatives in the UK Youth Parliament, which is made up of 11-18 year olds from all over the country.
Members of the Youth Parliament are elected locally and they campaign to bring about social change and to be the voice of young people locally.
Faith Oliver, aged 15 and Alex Davies, 16, who are at Stockport School, are two of Stockport’s representatives in the Youth Parliament. I met them recently and they outlined to me their chosen campaign on mental health, which is an issue that worries many young people.
They are collecting data on long waiting times for children to access help for mental health and want to use the information to campaign for shorter waits and for higher funding for mental health services. They also want young people to be offered more than the six weeks basic counselling currently on offer.
In November they will attend the annual Youth Parliament and sit on the green benches in the House of Commons to discuss this and other major issues.
I also met Alisha Routledge 18, who has just finished at Marple College, who is a deputy member of the Youth Parliament.
Alisha herself has experience of being a carer and has written to Ofsted, the schools’ inspection service, to express her concern and disappointment that young carers are not mentioned as a specific vulnerable pupil group in the new Ofsted handbook.
This means schools will not be challenged when they have not identified young carers and have no provision in place to support them..
This worries Alisha because she felt her life was turned around because of the support she received after her school identified that she was vulnerable as a young carer.
The stress associated with being a carer affected her schooling and led to her missing lots of lessons. She was helped because her school identified her caring responsibilities and put her in touch with Signpost Young Carers in Stockport.
Impressively she is now going to university in September and she says she has achieved this because of the support she received.
I have signed a letter she has written to Ofsted in which she says:
“The support I have been given through school/college and outside agencies such as Signpost Young Carers has given me the determination to not be another statistic that doesn’t pursue their aspirations.”
She and I urge Ofsted to re-think their decision. Alisha has also launched a petition which says that Ofsted inspections should specifically include school support for young carers.
At a time when people despair of politicians and political parties, it was a breath of fresh air to speak to young people who have their ears open to the challenges young people face in everyday life and have positive suggestions for helping.