Youth Forum news
The new crew
Young people on our forum serve for two years at a time. A new Youth Forum was recruited in September 2016 and will serve until September 2018. Since September, our new crew have been busy settling in and learning about their new role.
During the induction, we covered:
- team building and getting to know each other
- the vision for the next two years
- 'Rights in Action': Using Human Rights to create change where you live
- the powers of local and regional government
- Community Planning and the Belfast Agenda
- council structures and decision making.
We also had our first full forum meeting. At these meetings we report on our work, discuss future plans and debate and vote on decisions that need to be made about our campaigns.
What You Say Matters
In 2015 our Youth Forum hosted a workshop in City Hall to help the Children’s Law Centre (CLC) to gather the views of 900 young people from Northern Ireland on the changes needed to improve their lives. These views were turned into a report called ‘Our Lives in Our Words’, which was presented to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva.
In June 2016, based on the findings in the young people’s report, the UN Committee told the Government what it needed to do in order to ensure all young people are happy, healthy and achieve their goals in life. Their recommendations reflected the young people’s report which highlighted a need for:
- better mental health provision for young people
- an end to discrimination against young people in community life and leisure experiences
- an improved knowledge and understanding of rights
- greater levels of meaningful participation from young people in decision making both at community and government level.
One of the first tasks our new Youth Forum had was to organise and run a young people’s conference. We wanted to use this to engage with young people and use their voices to shape our future campaign work.
We organised our conference in partnership with young people from NI Youth Forum (NIYF) and CLC to discuss each of the themes above. During the conference we held youth led workshops around each theme and got young people to form questions that could be discussed with key decision makers from the Education Committee, PSNI and Department of Health.
Some of the key issues from the day that emerged from young people were:
- police stop and search powers
- inadequate mental health provision for young people
- votes at 16
- mental health issues caused by exam stress at school
- need for more youth friendly spaces for young people in their cities, towns and communities
- sexual health education.
As a result of the conference, the previous Health Minister, Michelle O’Neill MLA, invited a delegation of young people from the Belfast Youth Forum, NIYF and CLC to have a private meeting with her to discuss our concerns around young people and mental health provision. Barry McElduff MLA had also invited a delegation from all 3 forums to present evidence to the Education Committee in Stormont.
All 3 Forums have committed to continue our partnership working, particularly around our mental health campaign.
For more information on the conference, download the What You Say Matters conference report.
Meeting with the Junior Minister
In January, the Youth Forum, NI Youth Forum and the CLC met with Junior Minister, Megan Fearon MLA. During the meeting, members of our Youth Forum asked questions relating to mental health provision following the ‘What You Say Matters’ conference.
During the meeting we asked the minister questions relating to mental health provision that the young people who attended our conference came up with. In particular we asked:
- Why mental health makes up only 8 per cent of the overall health budget
- How the Minister plans to ensure young people have a say in creating their mental health services
- What are the plans to ensure under 18’s have the same access to mental health services as adults.
We also highlighted young people’s wishes to see more community based mental health provision that is less clinical and includes more peer support.
The Minister was really keen to hear our views and answered all of our questions. She also gave a commitment to meet with us again in 6 months and to update us on the progress made with the issues we highlighted.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
All of our work is guided and informed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The convention sets out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that all children everywhere are entitled to. It also explains how adults and governments must work together to make sure all children can enjoy all their rights.
The UNCRC consists of 42 articles, each of which details a different type of right. These rights are not ranked in order of importance, instead they interact with one another to form one integrated set of rights.
There are four articles in the convention that are seen as special. They’re known as the General Principles and they help to interpret all the other articles and play a fundamental role in realising all the rights in the convention for all children. They are:
- Non-discrimination, Article 2
- Best interest of the child, Article 3
- Right to life survival and development, Article 6
- Right to be heard, Article 12
The UK Government signed up to the UNCRC in 1991 and the Irish Government signed up in 1992. This means they promised all children and young people that they would promote and protect the rights enshrined in it.
We will use the UNCRC to strengthen our campaigns work and to promote human rights in our city and make life better for all of our children and young people.