Young people from throughout Northern Ireland gathered for a major conference aimed at giving youth a say in the future delivery of policies and programmes that affect their lives.
The Education Authority (EA) ’Young People First’ Conference was held at the Hilton Hotel, Templepatrick where young people and youth workers engaged with representatives from the voluntary and statutory sectors.
The conference was addressed by guest speaker Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People.
“Over 1200 young people have given their views and experiences of youth services, sharing with the Education Authority what they think should come next,” said the Commissioner.
“They have played their part and passed the baton on to Government, and I look forward to hearing how this feedback will be incorporated into future design and delivery of youth work provision in Northern Ireland.”
Young people and youth workers were joined by EA youth officers, officials from the Department of Education, area councils, voluntary organisations, and the Policing and Community Safety Partnership.
Tara Grace Connolly, 19, from West Belfast, said the conference provided a “great platform” for young people to air their views.
“The Young People First Conference is a great opportunity for young people's issues to be discussed and considered by policy-makers, the Education Authority and voluntary sector organisations, with the hope of putting the things that matter most to young people at the heart of Northern Ireland’s future youth policies and strategies,” she said.
“To have such a great platform for young people's issues to be openly addressed is fantastic and hopefully marks the start of similar events being held more frequently.”
Peter Mogey, 19, from Mallusk Co Antrim, called for more collaboration in the planning and development of youth policy and programmes.
“With the conference being based on the regional assessment of need, I think it can be a wake-up call to policy-makers and highlight the main issues that young people are facing today. It is about finding the most effective way of dealing with those issues and looking at what we can come up with together.”
The conference, which encompasses input from all of the EA’s regional and local advisory groups, was opened by Dr Clare Mangan, EA Director of Children and Young People’s Services, who thanked all agencies who took part.
“Events like the Young People First conference place young people at the centre of the policy and decision-making process and allow them to have a real say in how we as a youth service tackle the issues that matter most to them,” she said.
“I thank all the young people, youth workers and agencies who contributed to the conference and look forward to implementing the ideas, proposals and opinions gathered from workshops with young people to deliver a better youth service.”