In March 2009, User Voice organised for a group of young people representative of thousands like them who will leave school with little hope and no prospects, to attend a roundtable discussion with senior civil servants at The Cabinet Office hosted by Tom Watson, MP and Lord Kamlesh Patel. It was the culmination of a piece of work which Mark Johnson has undertaken over the past few years, working with some of the most excluded in schools.
Aim of the Event
The aim of the event was to educate politicians and policy makers about the reality of the young peoples’ daily lives – in which abuse, neglect and contact with criminal justice and social services are not uncommon – and to inspire the teenagers, raising their hopes and aspirations.
After a photo call outside No.10 and a tour of the Prime Minister’s residence, the pupils were joined by politicians and civil servants to discuss the differences between policy and reality.
The young people then met the Editor of Society Guardian to make submissions for the main feature in a special youth edition of the supplement, a series of short opinion pieces from young people from all over the country and from different backgrounds to share their experiences and tell us what more the adult world can do to help them.
What was the Outcome?
The pupils have all written the stories of the visit. The extracts below highlight the success of the event in achieving its two aims.
Educate politicians and policy makers:
"It was really useful to be heard as this has never happened before. We need people who we can talk to who have been in our position before it can’t just be some bloke who has got lots of qualifications but has never had any of the experiences that we have. We all thought that they had taken this on board. The politicians also talked about procedures that were in place but we hadn’t heard of any of these. They also said quite a lot of it was done through things like school council but were not the sort of good kids who get selected for things like this."
Inspire the young people:
"I loved being on that terrace it was like I was worthy or something, and I’m not worthy and I’m ugly but I felt special and I cried. I wanted to tell my mum and Lord Patel borrowed me his phone and I phoned her from there and she cried as well. I am grateful for that and it was amazing and it makes me want to change my life."
More information on the event here.