Helping Youth Find A Voice

by Gerry Lynch last modified 22 Mar, 2018 08:26 PM

Christian charity helps Wilts youth engage with their local MP

A Christian charity has helped young people in a Wiltshire village engage with their local MP and the decision making process.

The Rt Hon Claire Perry, MP for Devizes, visited Potterne Youth Centre to meet local residents as part of her Advice Surgeries.

This also an included an opportunity organised by the Christian charity Wiltshire Youth for Christ to meet with their MP, who is also the Minister of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Steve Dewar, who worships in the local Wellsprings Benefice, was the Wiltshire Youth for Christ worker who organised the visit, and said afterwards, “The young people asked Claire some challenging questions around the issues of homelessness in the area, and what the local authority and government were doing to help those in deepest need.

“It was also an opportunity for them to voice their opinions on the issues they face including lack of rural transport and education cuts, and the impact following removal of youth services and limited support available for young people, particularly those in villages far from town hubs or facilities.

“Although we may not agree on political parties or policies, it is vital that we learn to work together, respect other people’s opinions and challenge those in leadership to lead positive changes as role models for the next generation.”

As one of only a few full time youth workers in Wiltshire, Steve is part of a church-based organisation that is keen to see young people from across the area with different backgrounds and experiences involved in decisions that affect them.

Steve Dewar continued, “Last year, Wiltshire Council scrapped a unique youth work engagement vehicle (Erbie), which had initially cost £50,000, which was being underused by the Council following staff cuts.

“This the decision was taken without including any discussion or consultation with those it affected or community groups that may have been able to use it, especially in isolated rural areas. The local authority’s reliance on volunteers and community organisations to bridge the gap has increased but with limited resources, provision remains a challenge.

“The young people came away with interesting reflections on both our MP and their experiences of engaging with local politics.

“I was honoured and humbled that Claire was also shown the community garden in Potterne that I initially proposed, which was part of a BBC Gardeners’ World series showcasing it as a space bringing generations together.

“I am hoping to organise a trip to Westminster later in the year for local young people and will continue to invite local councillors and leaders to pro-actively listen and engage with the younger generation.”

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