Friday, May 30, 2008

Young People in Need

One of those humbling days today, when people who have a lot of needs also prove to have a lot to offer the rest of us. I had a meeting as Chair of the Western Area Partnership with a young man who doesn't let severe dyslexia hold him back. He's currently doing a degree but in his spare time is working on a number of projects as a volunteer. The one we were officially meeting to discuss is "Twisted Headlines", a project led by the YMCA to overturn the perceptions that young people are all knife-toting, anti social, badly behaved, loud mouthed etc etc. At present the project can't expand at all because there's a lack of funding, but the young people involved aren't deterred. They're busy collecting good news stories from the local press so that they can eventually use them in the creative ways they have in mind. He was hoping that members of the Partnership Board would join in collecting stories so that they gather a huge library of cuttings. I was able to say that we'd put it on the agenda of the next meeting. It seemed like a very small thing to do.
He also told me about work he's doing with Community Campus on homelessness. Again a very creative project is being planned if only they can get funding to carry it out. From what he told me it would involve some discomfort for those of us wh agreed to take part, but should give us an insight into the causes and consequences of homelessness for young people in the Borough. Because of his enthusiasm to tell me about the various things he's involved in the meeting lasted longer than we'd planned but it was worth every minute. He was pleased too that I could get the Cabinet decision from last week about using the Parkfield Hall site to put a purpose-built unit for homeless young people on, something which was news to him.
So a very productive hour in which we shared information on a number of issues of interest to us both. I hope it's going to be the start of a productive relationship.
Then this afternoon it was the bi-monthly meeting of the MALAP, the partnership which tries to ensure that children being looked after by the local authority get as many life chances as children being looked after by their birth or adoptive parents. The council is known as Corporate parent to these children and it's a role that some councillors and many officers take very seriously. We meet every two months to check on what is happening to "our" children, though we don't know them by name and this is not a meeting about individuals. Today we heard the alarming news that the number of young people in our care being placed outside the Borough has risen significantly in the last few months - lots of issues around the accommodation we can provide and lots of questions to be asked. The next meeting is going to focus completely on this topic with the aim of deciding some actions to take to improve the situation. The lighter moment was provided by the news that one of our children has won through the introductory stage of The X Factor, so who knows - we may have a budding star in our corporate family.

No comments: