Local democracy and life beyond lockdown – hearing from young citizens at NCS

Local democracy and life beyond lockdown – hearing from young citizens at NCS

Young citizens talking about their experiences at NCS

We were pleased to take part in the NCS (National Citizen Service) programme hosted by Huddersfield Town Foundation at Batley Bulldogs this October. In our final activity for Local Democracy Week 2020, we talked with young people aged 15 to 17 about life during lockdown and beyond, about things they’d like to change in their local place, getting to know our councillors and planning social action.

Young people have told us that moving between schools and moving on from school are key times in their lives – we know that what happens then affects young people’s sense of involvement and wellbeing. So our conversations with NCS participants are a timely reminder of the impact that events this year have had on our young citizens, and why it’s important for us all to connect with others in our community and with our local decision makers.

What young citizens told us

We asked our participants to think about life before, during and after lockdown. Here are some of the things they told us about what has changed in their lives:

Young people’s experiences of lockdown and beyond

“In the past it was normal, now it’s not normal, in the future I want it to be normal again.”

“I was chilling at home, in my comfort zone, then there was a big impact. It’s basically like a prison. You just need to do everything at home.”

“You’re bored doing the same thing all the time, for six months.”

“It was strange because I didn’t feel too affected at the time. Cancelling the exams was the bigger thing for me at the time… I didn’t really appreciate how much it would change things. You don’t realise until it’s gone, what you had in the first place.”

“I was fine because I had sixth form at the time. It was only for two days a week.”

“The mock exams that we didn’t pay attention to were suddenly our grade. Even results day was so much different. It was just get your results and go. The transition to uni was so different, no freshers’ week or anything. It was just like another day, not really a transition at all. It should have been special.”

“I was doing my GCSEs. They announced in the school that from 4pm you couldn’t go out. They cancelled our last paper. I got 70 instead of 80 or 85, because I didn’t get to do that paper. I felt broken.”

“We didn’t have a graduation or anything, we just left.”

“It wasn’t the way we wanted to leave. We had stuff planned for after the exams. We weren’t going to see each other again as a school after that. It was weird.”

We also talked with our young citizens about whether anything has changed for the better this year, which they might want to keep.

Is there anything you’d want to keep from this time?

“It made you value your family more.”

“It seemed more like people were willing to help each other more, strangers and neighbours, that’s not something you see usually.”

“Being inspired by the health sector – we don’t usually appreciate the people who do these jobs enough. People had a new level of respect.”

“The value of how you spend your time. Our routines have completely changed. We should use our time more wisely and not waste it like that.”

“Technology – before we were like ‘what the hell is this?’, but now we know it inside out. Everyone has these things now.”

“The value of everything. When you’re only allowed to do something for a short time, you want to get more from it, like time spent running or walking the dog.”

And our participants shared some things that they definitely don’t want to keep…

What things do you want to ditch?

“Home learning. I find it easier to work at school. Working at home, I just come back to my bedroom to work for the next 5 hours. It just feels like being stuck.”

“All the finger pointing that’s been happening since lockdown. I don’t like it.”

Next we talked about where we live, and explored how our local place is part of a ward and part of the district of Kirklees. NCS participants are also supported by our Electoral Outreach colleagues to learn how to register to vote and to have their say on issues that affect them. We explained what wards are why this matters for voting in local elections, and for our everyday democracy. Then we each shared experiences of our local place and talked about things we might like to change there.

Is there anything you’d like to change in your local place?

“Supporting local, small businesses. They have been hit harder. Local businesses are not ‘everywhere’, so it’s harder for them to survive if they don’t get help now.”

“Several people have been run over in the same place and three of them have died. Something is not working about the road system there and needs to be changed.”

“We need the community back together again. We have missed that quite a bit.”

“We need to let the community know that Covid is real and you need to take precautions. We need people to come and talk about it.”

Each young person worked out who their local councillors are and we looked at a local example of what a councillor does day to day. We encouraged our participants to make contact with their councillors to share their ideas or to ask for support.

What would you say to your councillors?

“Make our local parks better. Right now there’s not much to do. We have a cricket pitch behind our house which used to be one of the best in the area and that’s not even maintained now.”

“The road outside the school is a death trap, and lots of paths are getting in a state”

“First I’d ask how they are and say thank you for everything they’re doing, then I’d focus on the cleaning stuff in the environment more.”

At the end of our session we shared a social action plan template which the young people will use to plan their project as the next stage of their NCS journey. One of our participants described social action as: “Doing something actively for the community – getting everyone involved and making people feel part of something”. This clearly matters to our young citizens, especially given their experiences so far this year.

“I thought the session was excellent and we were really pleased with the engagement from the young people 😊”

[Evan Hall, NCS coordinator, Huddersfield Town Foundation]

We’d like to thank all our participants for telling us about their lives and local places, and for asking so many great questions, including: “How do you become a councillor?” Anyone who is interested can find out more about that on the Be a councillor website. And you you can Find your councillors on the Kirklees Council website.

We hope to hear more from you in the future.

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