This event was impressive. The anticipation and hard work of the youth councillors paid off in the end.
Fady and Fagr focused a workshop on guns and knives. With the help of PC Hancock, they managed to piece together displays of different knives and guns to illustrate the kinds of weapons that have been used by young people. Afrah’s workshop focused on drugs – a brief talk by Chris and Aziz from the Burngreave Drug Project was followed by information from SHED (Sheffield's young people's drugs project) about their services. Mohammed and Haseena did their workshop on the successes of young people, followed by a brief session on how to make the most of your time and abilities. Zainab’s workshop raised an awareness of issues related to crime and addressed the diverse issues facing young people.
A panel of important decision makers were brought together to answer the concerns discussed in the workshops. Many stressed the importance of banning toy guns, as they cause immense distress, not only to adults but also to children.
The reason behind the Youth Conference is to bring young people together, to discuss relevant issues concerning young people’s lives. This event was also meant to encourage local residents, and other decision makers in the area, to come along and hear what is being said. It was also about realising that young people are important contributors, economically, socially, and even politically. Giving them a voice is the Youth Council’s aspiration, both now and for the long term.
Many people praised the event and stressed the importance of addressing not only the setbacks but also the need to take in hand the ways young people can be backed by their community. Through realising that there are problems, the foremost question is how we can tackle them together, as service providers, as residents, as parents and as a whole community. Many discussed the reasons behind certain illegal acts, the choices that are made and the consequences that result. The workshop on the successes of young people focused on the employment rate and concluded that a high percentage of people in Burngreave are on benefits.
It is essential to appreciate that this is a first event for the Youth Council and should be seen as breaking the barriers and the fears of speaking out.