Ryeview – November 2005

Let the young have a say

John Clark writes…

First published: November 2005 – Gazette & Herald

Parents struggle to understand teenagers. Teenagers don’t even try to understand their parents. The only fact that shines through is that the future of the world, Britain and Ryedale depends on two things: the decisions adults make today and how the youth of today sort out the planet they inherit tomorrow. Support for young people is therefore doubly important.

How are the youth of Ryedale supported? I believe it is vital that we all understand the decision making process. It is equally important that this support is open, clear and democratic.

Five years ago I was elected as one of the parent governors for Lady Lumley’s School. I was a member of the Community Education Sub-Committee. From the title I expected this to cover Adult Education and other educational subjects outside the school itself. Yes it did but to my surprise the committee was also acting like a Sub-Committee for the NYCC Youth Service. Although there was a wide range of co-opted members, the votes and decisions were made by a small group of people – the governors of just one school – Lady Lumley’s. Other schools had no such Sub-Committee at all. As with other governors meetings the agenda were not published and the meetings were not open to the public.

How do the youngsters of Ryedale let alone the whole population see their democracy at work? The youngsters of Pickering called for a skateboard park – not an unreasonable request. This has gone on now for well over five years. Still no park. Even worse no one knows which members are pushing for a park or which are not (not to mention those that oppose)

Ryedale Council has “Supporting Young People” as one of its six corporate policies. How does it make its decisions on this core policy? The Grants Committee is an officer group while the Community Investment Fund meets in private. As a member of the CIF Panel I believe all the decisions have been made ‘correctly’. I have agreed with most of them. However, in terms of the youth of Ryedale, RDC is not ‘open’ or ‘transparent’. The opportunity is not there to see ‘democracy’ and even more important there is no encouragement or opportunity for Young People to ‘take part’ in the democratic process. No wonder the level of voting among young people is low. It is not apathy – there is no point.

This lack of transparency, involvement and democracy may have contributed towards the row over Ryedale Child and Youth Projects. As a member of the CIF Panel I had in front of me an application to support a ‘Scrap Store’. There was no suggestion that the future of RCYP depended on this application for funding. It was a request for £20,000 as part of a £56,000 project. We were concerned; we did not have up to date accounts; we did not have enough detail about the project; we were concerned as to what happened when RDC funding ended; the whole project appeared expensive. We had already supported Ryedale Child and Youth to a figure in excess of £80,000. For these reasons we asked for more information and deferred the decision until our next meeting.

According to the press reports, RDC is about to cause the demise of many youth functions from Rosedale to Foxholes. Ryedale Child and Youth said it was like a ‘house of cards’. RDC had not instantly supported a ‘new project’ and as a result other work was collapsing. No one has given me any reasoning either in the paperwork or verbally as to why existing RCYP functions will suffer if the scrap store doesn’t proceed.

It is one thing to criticise the situation and point out the problems but what is needed? How can the above situation be solved? What is needed for the Young People of Ryedale?

RDC has appointed a Youth Strategy Officer funded by NYCC. This was the result of a Best Value Review; a definite step in the right direction but not a complete solution. The whole of the structures need bringing into the open; when we can see the gaps we can create (and support) the solutions.

May I suggest; Ryedale needs a Youth/Young Peoples District Committee/Youth Forum. This needs to meet in public. It needs to be serviced by a Local Authority. The meetings need to coordinate and organise the various strands of provisions for young people throughout Ryedale. The District Committee should be made up of elected County Councillors and District Councillors. It should have representatives of voluntary organisations and most of all young people. I’m not concerned who has votes. I suspect that with public money involved that only the elected members would be eligible to vote. One of its earliest functions may need to be looking at ‘core funding’ for Youth Organisations. This could take us away from the House of Cards approach. I understand that NYCC is reviewing its Community Education provision. It may be an ideal time for these ideas to be added to the discussion.

Why are organisations working in isolation? Why are they allowed to ‘fail’ in isolation? The present system is in need of major change. Is the £80,000 plus already given by RDC to one organisation threatened by the collapse of a House of Cards? I hope that RDC can work with the County Council to review the provision in Ryedale. I hope they can improve on the current situation. For the sake of our young people they must at least try.

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