Young people to have say on influencing council decisions

Children and young people are set to be asked for their views on the best way for Derbyshire County Council to involve and consult with them on decisions it makes.

The council’s Cabinet is to consider a proposal at its meeting next Thursday (16 January) to carry out a consultation about changing the Derbyshire Youth Council (DYC) for more representative arrangements to increase the number of young people taking part in local democracy.

The DYC was set up in 2002 and has 36 members aged 11 to 19 voted into office by children and young people through the ‘Big Vote’ process every two years.

As well as the DYC, there are other opportunities which encourage youth democracy including Locality Youth Forums, the Children in Care Council, School Councils, the Care Leavers’ Council and countywide locality youth forums.

The council say an independent review of these groups carried out in 2018 identified that they were all valued by young people, but that a significant proportion of available staff time and resources was devoted to the DYC, which in comparison only benefited a relatively small number of young people.

The council’s Cabinet will consider a recommendation to carry out ‘The Big Consultation’ on a proposal for the DYC to be disbanded and replaced with a strategic network developed around the current School Council and other structures.

If Cabinet agrees to approve the consultation, it would run for 12 weeks from January 24 to April 17 and gather views from children and young people, schools, voluntary organisations, youth service providers, councillors and children’s services managers and staff.

Cllr Alex Dale, DCC's Cabinet Member for Young People, said: “We are committed to involving young people in our decision-making processes for a variety of reasons including the opportunities for them to learn about democracy and to help us plan services and make the best use of our resources by listening to what they have to say.

“Young people have told us that the DYC is a great way to discuss relevant issues and make a difference, but they also raised concerns that it was not always representative and only allowed for a small number of young people to be involved and benefit from the experience.

“That’s why we’re asking Cabinet to consider approving a consultation around a proposal which would focus resources on supporting opportunities young people think would enable and encourage more of them to get involved in local democracy and influence our decision-making process.”

Representatives from the DYC and some schools took part in an initial consultation to help shape the consultation options and their feedback included:

• It was ‘great to be part of the DYC’ but it was only available for a few young people and funding should be used to enable more young people be involved in council decisions
• Existing groups could be developed using technology to improve communication and connections between them
• The issues young people were most interested in included the council’s long-term plans and how it is meeting its environmental responsibilities, how budgets are spent, the quality of schools and services and equality and diversity issues.

Current DYC members were due to end their two-year term in office in March but it will be extended for a further year while proposals for possible future arrangements were considered.

The council say it is committed to involving young people in local democracy and decision-making, as supported by legislation including the Children Act 1989, the Education Act 2002 and the Health and Social Care Act 2001.

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