“The young people boosted their own skills and completed a two day training programme with Kirklees Council’s Democracy Service. The programme was provided digitally and gave young people a real insight into their local areas and how they can have a voice to make a real change. We had such useful and engaging conversations throughout.”Katy Stockdale, NCS Manager for Huddersfield Giants Community Trust
Like most things, our NCS activities for young people have been a little different this year. There has been lots of uncertainty about whether any of the NCS Keep Doing Good activities could take place, and if so how we could best keep young people safe. But we found a way through the challenges.
We were really pleased to be able to work with the NCS leaders at Huddersfield Giants Community Trust to help 35 young people learn about, and get involved in, local democracy. We ran a customised version of our two day local democracy training for young people, using a mixture of learning via video call and some small, distanced group activities in two spaces, supported by the team leaders.
The young people learned about what councillors do and who their local councillors are, explored their rights and responsibilities, discussed their local place and developed their plans for social action projects. We let young people know how (and why) they can register to vote, and we talked about influence and whether the young people find it easy to speak up, either for themselves or for others.
Some of the things our NCS participants said about having influence:
“People close to me make decisions for me, then others like the Government have more power. Sometimes I don’t think my view is important enough to be shared, so I don’t say anything.”
“The rights of the child say that everyone has a voice, but we don’t get to vote until we’re 18.”
“The most important thing I learned today is that I know who my councillors are now.”
An important part of our work is helping people of all ages to understand that local democracy happens where we are, and we are all part of it. In our NCS sessions, our young participants told us about their local places, and identified issues that they might like to try to do something about:
Some of the things our NCS participants said about local places:
“Crosland Moor has a park and takeaways, but that also means litter.”
“Golcar has shops and a park, but not much to do.”
“Hopton has a community garden set up, but not many people know about it.”
“Newsome has open spaces and fields which are really important for people’s wellbeing. But there’s litter, and a domino effect with that.”
“Almondbury has lots of buses. But also lots of drunk people at night keeping you awake.”
“Lowerhouses is quiet, with green spaces to relax and enjoy nature. Potholes make the roads look bad and can make driving stressful for young people.”
“Lindley has a park and football pitch – and it’s only five minutes to the carvery. But the state of the pitch is bad. So I end up playing Fifa indoors instead.”
We also talked about the qualities that make someone a good community leader. Our participants said that a leader should be: Resilient, Confident, Hard working, Motivated, Inspiring, Empathetic, Patient, Respectful, Approachable, Disciplined and Kind to people. They told us that leaders should be open minded, have good communication skills, have strong ideas but also be good at team work. We then explored what qualities each young person has that could help in organising a social action project, with participants saying they learned new things about themselves and each other.
Feedback from the team leaders included:
“The local discussions generated great feedback in the room.”
“It was interesting to see how hesitant participants were at first about coming up to the camera, and how they have grown in confidence throughout the day.”
“We’ve got a few people aspiring to be Prime Minister now.”
“One of the boys is signing up to the electoral register in the break as we speak.”
We learned lots from these sessions, about the challenges of trying to do something when we can’t all be in the same space, and also about the opportunities for us to keep improving our local democracy training. This will be really helpful as we continue to develop our Democracy Friendly Schools programme with schools in local places across Kirklees.
We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part, and to the team at Huddersfield Giants Community Trust who helped to make this happen.