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Lancashire youth voices heard in high places

Community Leadership students help shape region’s integration strategy

Students from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) have been assisting Lancashire County Council (LCC) to discover the burning issues affecting the region’s youngsters and which impact on community cohesion.

The eleven students, studying on the Foundation Degree in Community Leadership and the BA(Hons) Community Leadership, interviewed a cross section of young people based within the Callon Estate, Preston; Marsden Heights Community College in Nelson and Walton-le-Dale Young People’s Centre. Their views have been recorded in a report for LCC entitled Lancashire Youth Voices and expressed in three animated films which were unveiled for the first time recently at an LCC strategic consultation event attended by over 100 delegates.

Bob Walley, project coordinator from UCLan’s Centre for Volunteering and Community Leadership, presented the report findings and brought along some of the young project participants from the three project locations.

“We gained an honest and fresh perspective together with a clear idea of the issues affecting each group.”

“We wanted to gain a real cross section of views,” said Bob. “So we interviewed groups of young people from different social backgrounds and from a wide age range (9-16).  We gained an honest and fresh perspective together with a clear idea of the issues affecting each group.  Segregation between different groups within the communities was a common issue, usually related to gangs or tension between different types of people. All groups interviewed felt these problems could be solved through investment in facilities such as community centres. However there was also a strong recognition that any solution had to be put into the context of public funding cuts.”       

The young people from Callon talked about the high levels of unemployment in their area and how a community centre would give these people a place to learn or develop their skills, enhancing aspirations, social mobility and prospects of finding employment.

In Nelson the young people focussed on the levels of violence and anti-social behaviour around Pendle. The gangs that the young people talked about highlighted the different values held by the different sections of the community.

Segregation between different groups in the community was a key issue for the young people in Walton-le-Dale.  The animation produced for this group highlighted different values held by sections of the community.

Third year Community Leadership student Laura Eccles was one of the UCLan students who helped document the young people’s views. She said Youth Voices has been a fantastic opportunity for young people in Lancashire to express their opinions. “I have thoroughly enjoyed working on this project and empowering young people to speak about issues that affect them in the community,” she said. “The use of animation was also a really effective tool to project the key points of the report.  My hope is that the Youth Voices animation helps us work together to tackle these issues for the young people of Lancashire, working in partnership to create meaningful and long lasting cohesion across the county.” 

“I have thoroughly enjoyed working on this project and empowering young people to speak about issues that affect them in the community”

Pam Smith, Equality & Cohesion Manager at LCC commissioned the report and commented: “As part of the consultation process with our partners and voluntary, community and faith colleagues in developing the Lancashire County Council Equality and Integration Strategy 2013/16, we recognised it was also important to ask the young people of Lancashire about the local issues that impact on their community and how we could help address them. After all, these people are our future!

“As a key partner, we asked UCLan to roll out a consultation project which focussed on three areas across Lancashire (central, south and east) to tease out the diverse issues that impact on our youth now and what inspires them for the future.

“We wanted to know what opportunities there were for them to develop and how they saw themselves and their community moving forward for a better Lancashire. Meeting the young people and their representatives at the consultation event was a real eye-opener for us all. The finding of the report combined with the ‘live’ views of the participants made it feel so ‘real’ for all delegates.

“The report and the views of the young people were taken forward by all to the workshops in the afternoon, helping us to develop actions for the strategy to make Lancashire an integrated, safe, empowered and fair place to live.

“I would like to thank Bob Walley for his support with the project and in delivering the context to the report at the consultation event- it was very impactful."

UCLan students taking part in the project included: Callum Skade, Rebecca King, Laura Eccles, Sophie Postlethwaite, Emily Smith, Janet Githinji, Fara Zahid, Bilal Zeb Gondal, Charlotte Woodworth, Amir Shah and Shabana Saleem.