Kirklees Youth Council: the story so far

Kirklees Youth Council: the story so far

On Friday 18th October 2019 we published our “Growing a stronger youth council report. Here’s a brief history of our youth council’s first 10 years.

Kirklees Youth Council was established in 2008 in response to a request for a youth voice platform from local councillors and young people. Its aim is, and always has been, to help young citizens in Kirklees to learn about local democracy, to gain skills and confidence, to become active citizens and to have a voice.

Our format

During the early years the youth council operated more formally than it does today. We started out with a model that was designed to complement Kirklees Council’s decision making structures of the time. This involved a set number of seats, a set age range and elections held in schools every two years. We maintained this approach for a number of years.

Although our principles remain the same today as they were in the beginning, the way that we do things has evolved. Youth councillors have been at the heart of each stage of the youth council’s development journey. They have taken part in ongoing conversations about what works for them and what doesn’t – and the more we learned, the more we changed the way that we do things.

Some of the challenges youth councillors have told us about in the past include:

  • Youth council structure, activity and the pressure of being elected.
  • Additional responsibilities at home and school.
  • Various lengthy and formal meetings.
  • Not having enough information about our local democracy.

Using their insight and ideas we have explored different ways of addressing thesechallenges. Over the years we have:

  • Replaced elections with a range of membership alternatives.
  • Adopted a school-based model.
  • Explored different ways of developing relationships with local councillors.
  • Created an accredited local democratic education package.

Our activities

Kirklees Youth Councillors all share similar experiences of developing relationships, sharing their views with decision makers and the personal development that takes place during their time with Kirklees Youth Council.

Our activities have been wide ranging and have included:

  • A successful campaign to ban the mosquito device (which emits a high pitched tone only audible to people under 25, and is designed to disperse young people) from Kirklees Council buildings.
  • Taking part in a European youth exchange to Strasbourg.
  • Providing oral evidence for the British Youth Council’s Youth Select
  • Committee, exploring the role of the education system and the national curriculum in equipping young people with skills for life.
  • Sharing Kirklees Youth Council’s local democracy peer-to-peer training package with the Minister for the Constitution.
  • Taking part in the Kirklees Democracy Commission’s public engagement and evidence gathering activities, and speaking as part of a Full Council debate about the future of our local democracy.

Our relationships

In 2008 Kirklees Youth Council started from the beginning in terms of developing relationships with others and we are proud to say that some of those early connections continue today. We have worked hard to create and maintain relationships with all of our stakeholders, particularly children, young people and our councillors.

As with most relationships there have been ups and downs. As individuals come and go, and services change, new relationships have to be formed within the youth council and beyond.

Kirklees Youth Councillors value the relationships they make with each other and many remain friends long after their involvement with the youth council comes to an end. They also value the relationships they have built with Kirklees Council officers, who continue to help them develop as young citizens by providing ongoing support in the following ways:

  • recognising personal achievement
  • work placements
  • references
  • networking opportunities

More recently our relationship with ward councillors has strengthened due to our participation in the Kirklees Democracy Commission and our involvement in the ongoing practical work to grow a stronger local democracy in Kirklees.

Growing a stronger youth council