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Bristol Youth Council: Youth elections

The Bristol City Youth Council represents the voices of young people in Bristol. It empowers youth aged 11-18 to make change in their communities by having a say on how things that affect them are run. Members of the council are voted for in the Bristol Big Youth Vote, which happened this year in January 2024 and saw 8956 votes cast by young people in schools and organisations across the area. The new council was announced on the 9th February, and on the 13th March  2024 Bristol City Youth Council will be holding city wide Area Youth Forums in North, South and East Central Bristol where young people can attend to speak up about issues that are important to them as well as meeting the members of Bristol City Youth Council from their areas. 

WECIL’s Disabled Young People’s participation group Listening Partnership has a co-opted member, Edward Hall Green, who represents Disabled young people in the Youth Council. We look forward to the positive changes and influence that Edward, and the rest of the Youth Council, will go on to make in Bristol and beyond.

What is the Youth Council?

The Bristol Youth council is run by Bristol City Council and is organised in a similar way to the local authority, but is set up specifically for young people to have a say in policies and decision making. The Youth Council is made up of 29 young people, including 18 members split equally across the 3 areas of Bristol (North, South and East Central) who are nominated, develop their own manifesto and voted in. The remaining 11 positions are co-opted, with 5 equality co-opted young people, and 6 area co-opted young people. These positions don’t go through the same formal voting process but are selected to represent the diverse population and different backgrounds of youth across Bristol. The 5 equality positions are allocated to specific participation groups, which are WECIL’s Listening Partnership, Freedom Youth representing LGBTQ+ people, Young Carers Voice, Children in Care Council and Unity BAME Youth Forum. This format aims to empower young people in underrepresented and marginalised groups to have a say in decisions and on matters that affect them.

What does it involve?

During the Youth Council election, the candidates create a manifesto which youth groups and schools review and discuss. Then it is put to the Bristol Big Youth Vote, where the city’s young people choose themselves who they identify the most with and want to represent them. The members attend a full Youth Council meeting a month and a campaign meeting about developing projects, alongside additional forums specific to certain areas. This allows young people to regularly meet to discuss campaigns, upcoming decisions, events and issues that matter to them and the youth of Bristol. The next Area Youth Forums are on the 13th March.

In 2022, the campaigns that the Youth Council worked on included ‘Inclusive Bristol’, which aimed to ensure all young people feel accepted and included in the city, giving them equal access to opportunities. ‘Your Health Matters’ was another campaign which aimed to improve the health and mental health of young people post lockdown and specifically focused on the mental health issues caused by disabilities. The council committed to promoting accessible sport opportunities and tackling stigma through videos, leaflets and collaborations with organisations. The council also created a new Neurodivergent Awareness subcommittee to increase awareness of neurodivergence through surveys and research which could be used to help make positive changes to improve inclusion. These campaigns have been an amazing way that Disabled young people not only are able to use their voice to speak up on issues that are important to them, but the campaigns have engaged Bristol’s non-disabled young people as well as local organisations, promoting understanding and awareness of barriers across all of society.

WECIL’s elective member

Within WECIL’s Listening Partnership, we conducted a mini vote to elect our Co-opted Youth Council member who will represent Disabled young people. This year the group unanimously voted for Edward Hall Green, an inspiring 16 year old based in South Bristol who identifies as autistic, is an active vegan and is really keen to highlight the voices of other Disabled young people and be the voice on the Youth Council for the Listening Partnership.

Becky, Chloe and Billy, our last members, found their experience of the Youth Council very impactful. Some of the projects they worked on included raising awareness of invisible disability and developing the understanding and need for accessibility across the city.

Recently, Bristol Youth Council created this film which highlights the amazing range of youth and play services that are available across the city and how valuable they are to the community. It showcases stories from the young people themselves about how much these services mean to them, from places like Felix Road Adventure Playground to the Children’s Scrapstore. The film emphasises the important impact that these services have, discussing some of the benefits they provide such as a safe place to go to make friends, build confidence and have fun.

Summary

The Youth Council is a brilliant way that Disabled young people are able to stand up for their community and influence real policy and decision making. We wish Edward all the best with his new role, and can’t wait for him to be part of making positive changes in Bristol and beyond.

If you’d like to have a say about issues that matter to you as a Disabled young person, then why not come along to the Area Youth Forums on March 13th, where you can share your voice and meet your local council member. For more information please contact [email protected]. You can also get in touch with us at WECIL about joining our Listening Partnership.

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