Around 200 young people from across the borough came together to debate the issues that matter to them at Croydon’s second annual youth congress this week.
The event on Tuesday was attended by delegates aged 10-18 representing 25 primary, secondary and special schools; pupil referral units (PRUs) and young people who are home-schooled. There were also young people from organisations including Cacfo, Croydon Police Cadets, CDI (Croydon Drop In), Jus ‘T’ Learning, Music Relief, Girl Guides, and the Girls’ Brigade.
After a morning of workshop sessions the issues that emerged as top priorities for the delegates were crime and safety; mental health, and jobs and opportunities.
In the afternoon young people had the opportunity to put their questions to a panel of senior leaders from the council and police, and young community leaders.
Young panel members included Croydon Young Mayor William Awomoyi; Deputy Young Mayor Shea Williams; David Slade, East youth forum member, Ummar Ahmed, OnSide young people’s steering group representative and Chione White, South youth forum member.
Adult panel members included Councillor Alisa Flemming, cabinet member for children, young people and learning; Councillor Hamida Ali, cabinet member for safer Croydon and communities; Councillor Simon Hall; cabinet member for finance and resources; Croydon Council chief executive Jo Negrini and Craig Knight, temporary police superintendent for neighbourhoods and partnerships.
Questions from the young people ranged from the rehabilitation of offenders to stop and search, mental health training for professionals, employment opportunities for people with disabilities, bin collections, school buses, hate crime and many more. Information gathered from the young people at congress will now inform the work of the council, the police and their partners in the coming year.
Croydon’s Choose Your Future campaign was launched alongside Croydon’s first annual congress last year to encourage young people in Croydon to make choices for their own futures. The campaign has also helped to raise awareness of the issues young people identified as their top priorities, with a particular focus on crime and safety, and jobs and opportunities.
The campaign aims to encourage young people to make positive life choices, and for the council and partners to support them in doing so and celebrate their achievements.
In the first year of the campaign there has been a 13% decrease in knife crime in Croydon; the council has had conversations with more than 3,000 young people; over 40 young ambassadors have been directly involved with supporting the campaign and more than 100 organisations have given it their backing.
The Choose Your Future campaign will continue to support young people and the priorities they have identified at Youth Congress 2018.
The event was jointly hosted by Anthony King and local poet and spoken word performance artist Shaniqua Benjamin, who won Croydon’s Young Achiever of the Year Award last year. The audience enjoyed performances from young people from The BRIT School and Norbury Manor Business and Enterprise College.
Victim Support, Croydon College, Ment4, Palace for Life Foundation, Off The Record, Youth Engagement team, Croydon Youth Arts Collective (CYAC) and Music Relief all had stalls at the event.
“I have been inspired by listening to young people at Croydon’s Youth Congress as they raised their voices and spoke passionately about a huge range of issues.
“Croydon is proud to be home to London’s largest youth population and it was great to see so many of them from so many different schools and communities across our borough come together because they want to make a positive difference in their local community. I want to thank all of them for taking part. They have given us all a lot to think about and we will be responding to them through our plans for the coming year.”
Councillor Alisa Flemming, cabinet member for children, young people and learning