More than 100 young people took over Sunderland Council’s chambers last week to debate the issues that matter most to them.
The annual ‘State of the City’ debate, organised by Sunderland Youth Parliament, saw children and young people from the city’s schools and youth projects gather to debate five pre-set topics.
The topics, mental health, transport, work experience opportunities, a curriculum to prepare for life and protecting the LGBT+ community, were decided in advance following a city-wide vote in which 8,000 young people took part.
The young people were welcomed to the Chambers by Sunderland Youth Parliament’s Deputy Chair Yasemin Dogan ahead of the debate.
Yasemin said: “It was fantastic to see so many of my generation taking over the Council chambers and having a say on the things that are important to us. As with any healthy debate, we weren’t always all in agreement, but to see the passion and enthusiasm for our city’s future is really inspiring.”
The city’s councillors and representatives from Together for Children worked with Sunderland Youth Parliament to stage the debate and attended to listen to the young people’s views.
The debate culminated in a vote to decide what Sunderland Youth Parliament will focus their work on in 2018, with protecting the LGBT+ community the topic that secured most votes.
Sue Carty, Director of Quality and Performance at Together for Children said: “Together for Children puts young people at the heart of everything we do and the annual State of the City debate is always a highlight for us.
“It is fantastic to hear young people debating the issues that matter most to them and to hear their forward-thinking ideas on how things can be done differently and make for positive change. I look forward to following the work of Sunderland Youth Parliament on the chosen topic.”
Councillor Louise Farthing, Portfolio Holder for Children's Services at Sunderland City Council, said: “Sunderland Youth Parliament work really hard to affect real change and their ongoing efforts help shape policy across the city.
“The group meets every week and are dedicated to their work, doing a fantastic job. They should be really proud of their achievements, of which this year’s fantastic debate was just one of many.”
The State of the City debate also marked the start of the annual Takeover Challenge. The national challenge provides young people with their first steps into the world of work, politics, sport and the media.
Mayor of Sunderland Councillor Doris MacKnight, Councillor Louise Farthing and Together for Children’s Director of Education, Simon Marshall are all took part in the Challenge. The three welcomed pupils from schools and colleges across the city to join them for a day’s job shadowing offering an insight into politics, local government and education.