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Agenda item

Questions from Members of the Youth Council

Minutes:

 

Question (a) from Youth Councillor Arkan to Councillor Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families:

 

This autumn, we asked young people to vote for issues which matter to them. I am really pleased to say that 2,594 Islington young people voted. Tackling knife crime and serious youth violence was the number one issue with which over 800 young people voted for. As YCllrs we were very disappointed by London Mayor saying recently that it would take 10 years to tackle this problem, what is the council doing to reduce both knife crime and the fear of knife crime in the borough?

 

Response:

 

Thank you for your question. First of all, I think it’s incredible to reflect on the fact that the turnout in the Youth Council elections is higher than it is for our elections. You have a bigger mandate than we have!

 

On knife crime, we are taking an early intervention approach, what we are also trying to do is further understand the kind of trauma that young people experienced early on in life that leads them to more violent behaviour as they get older. We have some training in our primary schools at the moment to help teachers work with young people, even really young children, to learn how to self-regulate and manage anger, so we don’t have kids getting excluded from school, going down a bad pathway and picking up a knife.

 

Our Integrated Gangs Team is doing some great work, involving Health colleagues and partners from the voluntary sector. There is also great work from the Ben Kinsella Trust and Victim Support. We have loads of people working together to try and keep young people safe. I’m not going to read out all of the statistics I’ve been given, but the statistics in Islington are moving in a better direction than they are in other boroughs, which I think is due to the approach we have taken and the investment we have made. But it is still a real problem. You know that when you go out on the street there are young people around you carrying knives, and for me the real question is; how can we get to a situation where it’s not normal for young people to pick up a knife? How can we get to a situation where that is not an acceptable thing to do? I think to get to that point it will require us to understand more and listen more to young people about the reasons why they take knives out with them, because we all know if you carry a knife you are more likely to be a victim of knife crime. We need to get that message across. We need to work together to understand the reasons why young people carry knives so we can address it properly.

 

Question (b) from Youth Councillor Tsedenia to Councillor Shaikh, Executive Member for Inclusive Economy:

 

With less than 114 days to Brexit, what plans have Council Leaders made to ensure that young peoples’ employment and training opportunities are not adversely effected. Can the Cllr please reassure young people who may be worried about their future career opportunities that Islington Council will do all that it can to maximise their opportunities.   

 

Response:

 

Thank you for your question. I am really pleased that the Youth Council are looking at the impact Brexit, as we know that it is a real concern for young people, and lots of other people about the impact that Brexit might have. 

 

I can assure you that we are taking the impact Brexit may have on the council, and Islington as a whole, very seriously. In addition to our work calling for EU Citizens who live in the borough to have their rights guaranteed by the Government, we have also been doing work to anticipate the impact Brexit may have on our local economy. Unfortunately, we are anticipating that Brexit will lead to staff shortages in most key employment sectors, for example construction, hospitality and health and social care. We are currently developing a new skills strategy that will seek to anticipate the effects of Brexit on our local jobs market and how we can best mitigate against any harmful effects. 

 

As you know, the council’s has already been doing a lot to help young people access the careers and jobs that they want. The council’s focus is on ensuring that young people are supported to make informed choices about their future careers, and that they are given full information about the range of options available to them, including apprenticeships. To support our young people to compete in any labour market, before and after Brexit, we have committed to ensuring that all Islington young people should experience at least 100 hours’ experience of the world of work by the time they finish Year 11.

 

We are also working with our business communities and schools and colleges to design a quality careers advice offer for young people, and at the same time we are continuing to source apprenticeships and entry level roles for our young residents. For example, some of you might be aware of our Aspire event last week, where we brought together a whole range of creative industries to meet with young people. We act as a broker and a network to connect our creative industries to our young people. It was really popular, really successful, and we managed to link young people to careers in TV, video and music production, a range of off-stage roles; we want to do more of that in the future, we want to help our young people get the contacts that they need with employers.

 

I was pleased to report to the Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee this week that, since 2014, the Council has supported 1,500 young unemployed people into work, and we have helped over 600 people start apprenticeships both with the Council and with external employers.

 

I can assure you that Islington Council is on the side of our young people, and we will do all we can to ensure everyone has the opportunities to get on in life and achieve their potential.

 

Question (c) from Youth Councillor Jackie to Councillor Ward, the Executive Member for Housing and Development:

 

In the consultation, homeless was the third most important issue young people were concerned about. What is the council doing to tackle homelessness particularly among young people? We would like to council to provide young people who are doing apprenticeships with accommodation similar to that provided to university students to support independent living and in a safe space.

 

As Councillor Ward, the Executive Member for Housing and Development, was not present, the question was answered by Councillor Watts, the Leader of the Council:

 

Thank you for your question. I am sorry that Cllr Ward is not present to answer your question, as he is much more of an expert on housing issues than I am. Firstly, can I welcome the fact that young people in Islington are so concerned about homelessness. Homelessness is a stain on our society and its rise over the last few years is a genuinely shocking consequence of Conservative austerity and the cuts and damage this government has done to our social infrastructure. It’s unacceptable that anybody is forced to sleep on our streets, even for one night; it’s not just a failure of one particular service, it’s a sign of a society coming apart at the seams.

 

We take an approach to homelessness which looks to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place. One of the biggest causes of homelessness is eviction from the private rented sector; we have a lot of support for tenants who are at risk of eviction, we intervene with landlords, provide advice, provide support, try to provide people with secure accommodation if their tenancy has ended. We work closely with charities, health colleagues, the Police and others to support people who find themselves homeless. We have rehoused over 700 families in temporary accommodation who had become homeless and have priority needs. The Outreach Team continue to work with rough sleepers all the way across Islington, in fact we are looking at ways to expand that outreach work at the moment given the clear and pressing need.

 

The Council has pioneered new approaches to addressing homelessness in hotspots, like the area around the Stroud Green Road Bridge, where the council has supported more than 30 people in to more sustainable housing. It’s a constant challenge because the complex problems people face mean that whenever you support some people into housing, you have others replace them.

 

Importantly we are trialling a Housing First approach, which has been trialled by a few other councils, that is where instead of saying that homeless people need to get a job and sort out the other problems they have before we get them a house, we get them housing first and then use that as a secure base which allows them to put down roots and address other challenges in their lives. This is having a really good impact at the moment and is something we would like to expand if we can.

 

You raise an interesting point about student-style housing for council apprentices. Any apprentice currently facing homelessness has the opportunity to access all of the services I already outlined, but I would say I am a bit nervous about student-style housing for apprentices. We can certainly look at affordable housing, but we have very limited space in the borough so need to provide more permanent kinds of housing, like council housing. I worry that student housing is quite expensive, is quite short term, and is not the sort of thing that people would actually find helpful. I am happy to commit Cllr Ward to have a further conversation about it. 

 

Question (d) from Youth Councillor Lydia to Councillor Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families: 

 

We are really pleased that young people are being actively encouraged to have a say about services which are aimed at them. An example includes the newly created Service User Group at TYS/YOS called “You Lead”. We think young people should be consulted and involved in all services and aspects of Islington Council to create a fairer borough. How can this approach be embedded more widely?

 

Response:

 

Thanks for your question. I think one thing that was really central for us was the work of the Fair Futures Commission. We spent a year listening to young people and what we are doing now is rolling out the Commission’s recommendations throughout the council. What this means is that bits of the council that did not previously have a focus on children and young people, like parks and greenspace and other services outside of Children’s Services, will think about what they are doing for children and young people, and use those recommendations to drive what they do.

 

I also think it’s pushing us to listen more to young people and one thing we have been doing recently is holding Ward Partnership meetings for young people; I held one in my ward for six to twelve-year-old kids. To hear what they have to say about their local area is fascinating and is different to what you hear from older children.

 

We are looking at other ways to listen and involve young people; what is happening with Youth Offending and Targeted Youth Services is a great example of how a service which traditionally has not been centred around listening to the voices of young people, which previously had a top-down approach, has been re-tooled; we are listening to the experiences of young people and use what they tell us to make the service more effective. We have learned from other authorities including Leeds who have used that really well in the past. I think we can do loads more in future, if you keep challenging us then hopefully I can keep on giving you examples of that over the year. 

 

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