by Kalvin Gavrilov
Reading Youth Council press officer

Reading Youth Council LogoWhen and where: Friday, 31 January, 9am-3pm at Meadow Suite, Reading University

The time has come to announce the 2020 Reading Youth Council Conference, entirely planned and delivered by the young people on the Council for their peers.

The conference this year is entitled Inform, Impact and Imagine. Our special guests are MP Matt Rodda, Brighter Futures for Children’s Managing Director Tony Kildare, Richard Usher from the Schools Climate conferences, and Jason Brock, Leader of Reading Borough Council.

Established in 2005, the Reading Youth Council has provided generation upon generation of ambitious, hardworking young people, fueled by the needs of the people and driven to succeed in providing them with inventive and shrewd solutions. Examples of completed projects include keeping bus fares for 16-year-olds, a mental health treaty and producing a magazine on equality.

Concentrating on the Youth Council’s research findings, the aim of the conference is to showcase their work. Our aim is to help fellow young people become informed and impacted by our work and we hope to inspire new imagination to aid us in making Reading greater.

Reading schools will be attending the event as we strive to gather potential new members. We know that Reading offers a variety of people with versatile skills and ambitions to meet the demands of the community and we need to recruit more and more members as we expand our network.

The conference will feature a series of unique workshops and activities centered around exploring climate change anxiety, confidentiality in schools, the use of knives for protection and self-defense, money management, life skills and our three campaigns: Mental Health, Putting an End to Knife Crime and Tackling Homelessness.

Mental Health is, unfortunately, still considered a taboo subject by many, yet nothing silences our 18 members, who work on behalf of the several thousands who attend schools and live in Reading.

Their work includes carrying out surveys on mental health awareness – helping to further our understanding of necessary methods of educating others and to help grow a chain of support. This was then put into action with PSHE workshops for a mental health programme. While we acknowledge that we may not ever experience the pain and suffering from intense mental health struggles, our representatives have remained unconditionally empathetic as we aim to continue to provide more and more to tackle this topic.

Recognising the outstanding efforts made by local police and helping to further their work, led to many of us choosing to work on our Putting an end to Knife Crime Campaign. Police deal with an estimated 130 acts of violence every single day. This unimaginable figure is only expected to increase as more and more families grieve and ache as yet another one of their loved ones is found to have been stabbed.

As giving our community a voice is one of our core ideals, we will hold various workshops during the conference. We will mark a new era of action as we inspire change and lead the young people of Reading towards a better tomorrow. And what does this entail? A promise towards making our streets safer while teaching people on self-defense. With the help of all of you, knife crime will be no more. It is no wonder it was voted among the top problems to tackle in 2019 ballots across the UK.

It would have been beneficial to begin with an exact national figure regarding homelessness, but it remains near incalculable. What is more shocking is how under the Vagrancy Act, it remains illegal to sleep rough and beg. For people who seem to have lived through Hell, they still sit with gentle smiles, each with their own stories ranging from family fallouts to school dropouts.

The next best step in our Tackling Homeless Campaign. Let’s take the next step in helping those without a home in Reading and attending the conference, which provides the chance to vote on this issue among many others.

Students will be given the opportunity to actively take part in debates themed around the environment and knife crime. Conference delegates will also be entitled to vote for the third campaign, which will be selected from the choice of topics voted in 2019 Make Your Mark Ballot.

Your voice makes a difference! My fellow members at the Reading Youth Council and I would like to welcome you to the conference – we hope to see you all there!