Youth Forum news
Our new officer team
'Poverty: It’s not a choice’
Our Mental Health Campaign
Votes at 16
Get in touch
An equal and just Belfast for all young people.
Our new officer team
We’ve recently elected a new officer team to lead on our work over the next year.
- Chair person: Eimeár O’Keeffe
- Vice Chair: Seánna Gregory
- Secretary: Niamh Mallaghan
‘Poverty: It’s not a choice’ Young people’s report
In May we launched our ‘Poverty: It’s not a choice’ report in Belfast City Hall. The event was a great success and was attended by almost 100 people including council staff, elected members and staff from government and statutory agencies including the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM), the Belfast Health Trust and The Housing Executive. We followed this up by delivering a copy of our report to each of our councillors and our Chief Officer, Chief Executive Suzanne Wylie in Belfast City Council, but just in case you missed it you can read our report.
So far, we’ve presented the key findings and recommendations of our report to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and to our community planning partners including the Public Health Agency, PSNI, The Housing Executive and the report was also highlighted at a meeting with our full council and the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee.
We don’t want our research to just sit on a shelf, we want it to be used to help create real change for people and communities experiencing poverty in our city. So now it’s time for us to start lobbying you around some of the solutions we recommended to council in our report.
We think that young people, elected members and council staff can work together to build and share wealth with poorer people and communities in Belfast. In October we received training from Trademark, a social justice cooperative dedicated to tackling sectarianism and inequality, on ways Belfast can do this. Then, in the New Year we would like to meet each political party in our council to discuss young people’s solutions to poverty and find ways to work together to push these forward. We will be writing to Party Leaders in the coming weeks to set up these meetings.
Our mental health campaign
Following the success of our ‘What You Say Matters’ Conference in Belfast City Hall in October 2016, young people told us in big numbers that the issue they would like us to take forward and campaign on was mental health. We ran the conference in partnership with young people from the NI Youth Forum and Children’s Law Centre, so it made sense to keep this going and run a mental health campaign together. We’ve set up a mental health sub group made up of three young people from each organisation and took ourselves off on a residential in June to plan our campaign.
Young people told us that when it comes to mental health there’s an ‘elephant in the room,’ both in terms of people still not feeling comfortable discussing their feelings and emotions and also due to the fact that we know mental health is a big issue here but it receives poor levels of funding from government.
So we want our campaign to:
- Change public perceptions of mental health
- Encourage and support more young people to talk about mental health
- Engage with key decision makers at departmental and ministerial level on young people’s recommendations for change
- Advocate for increased funding for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and make it more accessible to young people in line with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s 2016 recommendations to Government.
As part of our campaign we will be conducting our own research with young people and will also be holding three mental health youth conferences in Belfast, Newry and Derry in 2018. To help us run our campaign we applied for £10,000 from the Big Lottery ‘Awards For All’ funding pot and got great news at the start of October to say our application was successful! Now that we have a dedicated budget we can get stuck into organising everything we’ve been planning since the summer.
It’s still early days for this project but we’ll keep you up to date with how we’re getting on and will definitely be knocking on your door over the coming months for your support.
In August we took part in the councils first ever march as part of Belfast Pride! It was a great day and we look forward to next year.
Belfast supports Votes at 16
Over the coming months, Bills for Votes at 16 will be presented to the British and Irish Governments by MP’s and Senators. In the UK and Ireland this will be debated on the floors of Westminster and Seanad Eireann. The Bill’s propose that legislation is brought forward to reduce the voting age to 16. If successful it will extend the right to vote to thousands of 16 and 17 year olds across the UK and Ireland.
In Belfast during November’s full council meeting, Councillor Charlene O’Hara brought a motion on behalf of our Youth Forum endorsing Votes at 16 and calling on the British Government and the Secretary of State to start the process of legislating to extend full voting rights to all 16 and 17 years olds in time for the 2019 local government elections.
Megan Mc Connell from our Youth Forum and Tara Grace Connolly from the NI Youth Forum took to the floor of Belfast City Council’s Chamber to address all Members and make their case for Votes at 16 and what a job they did; the motion was passed with a healthy majority.
The Votes at 16 campaign is moving in the right direction and building greater momentum; Belfast City Council’s endorsement will help to strengthen our young people’s case and sets an example to other councils.
Get in touch
As a decision maker within our council we would appreciate any opportunity to meet and discuss our work, especially if it can influence policy and council decisions that impact young people’s lives.
If you’d ever like to meet some of us for a chat or to find out more about our work, you can contact our Youth Forum worker, Áine Hargey, and she will help arrange this.
You can email here at firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 028 9050 0521.