This guest blog comes from Councillor Helen Godwin, Cabinet member for Women, Families and Homes.
Our city’s children are our greatest asset. They are our future leaders, teachers, health workers and carers. They have a huge role to play in how we develop as a city. Today, we take another step towards meaningfully engaging young people in their future with the formation of the One City Children’s and Young People’s Board, which will give them a platform to share their ideas and concerns, as well as develop solutions that work for them.
We know that too many of our children and young people feel let down by the systems that are meant to support them. As a city our educational outcomes are not good enough – there are children and young people missing huge swathes of their education because a culture of exclusion has developed and gone unchallenged. We have managed to keep our children’s centres open in the face of years of austerity, but community and family services can still be difficult to access, reducing opportunities for early intervention with vulnerable young people. Child poverty continues to blemish our city aspirations, with too many children going to bed hungry. The pandemic has shone a light on the glaring inequalities of our city and the disproportionate impact it is having on vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people.
On the face of it, it sounds bleak, but scratch beneath the doom and gloom and there are some amazing things happening in Bristol. Our children and young people have shown that they are resilient, adaptable, and caring in the face of unprecedented loss and change caused by the pandemic. They are informed about key international issues like climate change and racial inequality. They are switched on with new forms of technology and are bubbling with creative ideas and solutions.
It is our job as leaders in Bristol to harness and focus this amazing resource drive the change we need to see if we are to be the outward facing, hopeful and sustainable city we aspire to.
We know that many children and young people feel disenfranchised when it comes to decision making. Promises have been broken and trust has been eroded by politicians and leaders in the past. Rebuilding this trust is fundamental to engaging young people in meaningful collaboration.
That’s why we’re launching a new Belonging Strategy that will provide a step in the right direction to build these relationships and place the voice of the child at the centre of our decision making. Overseeing this work will be the One City Children and Young People’s board. Its role will be to act as a speaker to amplify the voices of children and young people and ensure their voices are a fundamental part of Bristol’s strategic planning and decision making.
Working with the City Office and being involved in shaping our One City Plan will provide an opportunity for our young people to think long term and define the type of future they want as adults.
This Board is here for our children and young people to allow them to hold partners to account on decisions that matter most to them. But it also allows us to tap into the energy, ideas and perspectives of our city’s brilliant young people.
I look forward to sharing more as the new board members settle in. I, for one, can’t wait to see how they got on.