The Youth Engagement Strategy, #YES, will support children and young people aged 8 to 18, or up to 25 for those with special educational needs or disabilities, and includes creating a new, city wide youth engagement team to better connect youngsters to opportunities across Wolverhampton, a new fund for children and young people to co-produce activities and events, and better information and signposting for youngsters and families.
The strategy was developed following extensive consultation with, and feedback from, nearly 12,000 young people, parents and carers last year. They were asked their views on growing up in Wolverhampton and what opportunities they would like to be given.
The resulting strategy focuses on 5 ambitions: to enable the city's children and young people to have fun and enjoy their leisure time; be physically and mentally healthy; be respected and have their opinions valued; be able to learn and achieve; and to live in safety and stability.
Councillor Ian Brookfield, Leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council, said: "Our children and young people are our city's future, and we want them to be the best they can be. That's why we want to give them the best possible start in life.
“Since I came into office in May, I’ve seen first hand a huge amount of good work going on to support our city’s children and young people.
“I was also proud to be able to secure a further £600,000 investment in the city's The Way Youth Zone, on top of £3.5 million the council has already invested in this state of the art facility, and to launch WV Holiday Squad, the wide ranging programme of more than 400 events and activities which has engaged tens of thousands of children and young people during the school holidays. At the same time, West Midlands Police figures show it contributed to a significant 48% reduction in anti social behaviour involving young people.
"But we need to go even further, and through this strategy I am confident we will improve the wellbeing of children and young people right across Wolverhampton, including those with special educational needs and disabilities, and enable them to live a happy and rewarding life.
"We received some really good feedback from children and young people – as well as their parents and carers – about what Wolverhampton, as a city, could do to make things better for them. In particular, they told us they want to be healthier, they want to feel connected and they want to be heard, and these are the 3 key themes this strategy seeks to address."
The key priorities of the strategy include:
- Investing in a new youth engagement team to better connect youngsters to opportunities available across the city.
- Establishing a new fund which young people, families and groups and organisations can use to commission and co-produce new activities, events and opportunities.
- Enabling the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people, including those with special educational needs and disabilities, to enjoy the full range of activities on offer in the city.
- Developing a new website to promote the wide range of events, activities and opportunities available to children and young people in Wolverhampton all year round, for instance free swimming.
- Building on the success of WV Holiday Squad by offering even more school holiday activities for children and young people, starting this February half term.
- Providing more physical activity opportunities for children and young people and enabling them to make healthy lifestyle choices.
- Developing new emotional wellbeing services.
- Celebrating the positive achievements of the city’s children and young people.
Councillor John Reynolds, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: "This hugely important strategy is our response to prioritising our city's children and young people.
"The strategy sets out a direction of travel to enable the city as a whole to make a real and lasting impact on the lives of the children and young people and create opportunities for them to be their very best.
"As well as identifying a range of ways in which we can help our young people be healthy, be connected and be heard, and valuing their contribution in making Wolverhampton a great place to grow up and raise a family, the strategy also recognises the importance of involving young people in shaping services, with co-production a key element.”
He added: “We know that improving the lives of children and young people will require consistent and sustained action over a long period of time, so this is not a short term commitment. We also know that it is not the responsibility of a single person or organisation; it needs everyone to work together – and that’s what we will do.”
The strategy, developed by the City of Wolverhampton Children and Families Together Board, is due to be presented to members of the council's Cabinet on Wednesday (22 January, 2020). Councillors will be asked to endorse the strategy and its implementation. Organisations which sit on Board, including the council and key partners, will develop an action plan to focus on the priority areas identified by the strategy.