The Kingston Youth Council has taken the time to draw up a Manifesto. Kingston Conservatives have now had the opportunity to review the concerns and issues raised. We provide outstanding schools to educate our children and we encourage them to take part in our community through our youth services but as a Council we do not do enough to listen to them or respond to the issues that affect them directly. Kingston Conservatives wish to change this in the future.
The Kingston Youth Council has raised issues of Crime and Safety, Travel and Transport, Positive Activities and Communication with Councillors.
Crime and Safety
We agree with all their concerns and welcome all the suggested solutions. Their concerns about anti-social behaviour and the statement that they don’t feel safe in our Streets, Estates, some bus routes and in some parks supports Conservative policy on the need to do more to help our residents feel as safe as the crime figures suggest they should. We have a role to play in helping to allay the fear of crime where it is unjustified. The Police already work closely with some schools but the relationships need to be developed. We are also concerned with safety in our parks and have agreed to look at ways to improve this in our manifesto. We will support a programme of work that encourages young people to report crime and to work with the Neighbourhood Police Teams to work closer with our schools.
Travel and Transport
The Youth Council have raised concerns that need to be addressed if we are to encourage young people to use public transport. We will ask London Transport and the Police to join together with the Youth Council to form a working party to address the problems of Cleanliness, Times, Attitude of Bus Drivers, Behaviour and affordability. Improvements can only be made by working together and once again the Youth council has set out solutions that can be achieved if we work together.
We agree with the Youth Council on the need for Positive Activities and will enter into discussion with DC Leisure after the election to agree new arrangements for young people using our council owned gyms and swimming pools. We will also ask commercial operators to look at how they can encourage young people to join either with family memberships or special young people’s rates. We have already released in our manifesto that we want to transform our Youth Centres, see them used more and to develop new kinds of facilities, such as youth café’s for our young people to use and enjoy, allowing them to socialise safely.
Communication with Councillors
The youth council have raised three points that go to demonstrate that while the council has played lip service to them and does not consider it important enough to embrace the Youth Council as a formal part of the decision making process. We want to change that and have been developing new policies to make the Youth Council an active and formal part of the Council.
- We want to enhance the Youth Council, give them the right to bring issues to the attention of the full council, to hear reports from executive members and to question decisions made. We want to hear their voice when addressing issues that relate to them are being considered by the Executive and the Council as a whole.
- We will ensure that the Youth Council is recognised in the official structure of the council and that it is consulted on issues as we do neighbourhoods when considering the formation of Council policy.
- Working with the Youth Council, we will look to develop further the relationship with our Youth Services and other community organisations to further strengthen the work and influence of young people in the borough.
- We will appoint a Young People’s Champion to speak on issues within Council and to support the work of the Youth Council and the Youth Service who is not part of the Executive and can challenge the administration to address young peoples concerns.
Cllr Nick Kilby, Shadow Executive Member for Youth Services said “Our Youth service is the Cinderella of our council. It has an important role in encouraging young people to play an increasingly more active role in shaping our Borough. The Youth Council is the jewel in the crown of the services and we want to work with the young people to address the issues they have identified and then go further by involving them in the creation of future policy on all subjects. Young people are often blamed for things that have nothing to do with them. The Kingston Youth Council manifesto provides a good basis to deal with the issues that will make living in the borough better for all but especially the younger residents. After all it is their future we are dealing with and their voice should be heard”
Note: The Kingston Youth Council Manifesto 2009-2010 is available from the Kingston Website.
Contact Cllr Nick Kilby 07753 787358 or Howard Jones 07768 617857
A Night Out with the Youth Outreach Team by Nick Kilby
Friday night is party night and there is no better way to spend it than joining the RBK Youth Outreach team. I arranged to meet Helen and Greg at the Alexandra Park. Helen briefed me on what we would be doing during the evening and asked me to agree a phrase or comment that I could make during the evening. This phrase could mean I had seen something that may be a threat to us or that I felt threatened in a situation during our tour. I decided what I would say as we started to walk round the park.
Helen and Greg gave me some of the background to their work and what they try to achieve through this outreach work on a Friday night. The first group we met were adults drinking and talking, too old to concern us. The next group, who were playing basketball, were adults too but in a far corner of the park we found a group of younger people were sitting in a big circle. As we walked towards the group they got up and started to move off. When we came to where they had been sitting it was clear they had been eating pizzas and takeaways and drinking soft drinks. Their only crime on this late summer’s evening was not taking their litter to the nearest bin, a service we provided on this occasion. We decided to go for a walk and drop some forms off to a lady who has been helping a group of youths local to her in Tolworth. I know from residents, groups of young lads are often found in the Red Lion Road area and recently in Oakhill too, just hanging around.
The biggest problem for the team is dealing with alcohol and not drugs. Young people are gaining access to drink from supermarkets and shops and taking it into the parks and the better off kids are getting access from their parent’s supplies. Places for young adults to meet after 6pm, that provide a real place for them to socialise and relax in are extremely limited. They don’t want “Youth Club’s” in the traditional style but alcohol-free bars or clubs where they can be young adults. Without these places being available the parks, skate parks and street corners are the only places to hang out for most. Home is not an option for those who are looking at ways to transform from children to young men and women away from their parents, good or bad as their parents may be.
After dropping off of materials we drive over to Berrylands. We park at the bottom of Ashburn Avenue at the roundabout with Elmbridge Avenue and Surbiton Hill Park. We walk into the park that is sandwiched between Berrylands and New Malden. The first group we meet are four young men who are older but known to the team. Peacefully drinking cans of larger and talking. They exchange greetings with Helen. Recently there has been some vandalism to new play equipment and while they have heard about it, they’re not aware who is responsible. Off in the now dark distance we can hear the noise of a larger group around the children’s play area. We head off in that direction.
With the moon now providing the only light, I am starting to understand how the outreach team can find themselves in vulnerable positions; it is not easy working out how many people are in the group as we walk towards them and how old they are. As we get near to them, one of the boys shouts out a greeting to Helen. Helen reassures me that she knows this group who range from 13 to 17. The group of about 9 is made up of three girls and six boys. They are clearly under the influence of alcohol and one of the young women may have had drugs based on her behaviour. One of the guys is loud but friendly and hugs Helen and introduces her as his “Girlfriend”. Helen and Greg know all the group’s life stories and they are from the Kingston Town side of the borough. The ring leader has been drinking since mid afternoon. Greg and Helen talk to them all about how things are going in their lives, they talk about the effects that drinking so much is having on their health, what is going on at school. As we are talking, another young guy arrives with two carrier bags of beer. This group has not been involved in the vandalism and Helen reminds them not to leave their litter around for the younger children to see in the morning. Sadly I doubt they heard what she was saying. They were all worse for the drink. As we walked away, Helen and Greg said that even if we could find venues that young people felt they wanted to hang out in; this last group was unlikely to go. They were the hard core of young people who would continue to drink in the parks and in future will suffer for it in their health and poor education.
Safely back in the car, the team write up their notes and log the names of those who they have just seen. As I fiddle with my phone and send texts to my friends who are all enjoying a supper in Grove, I notice a small group of young men coming through from the park and talking to an older guy on a bench conveniently under a street light. The bench is 50 metres from the road but is still in full view. Soon a second group of young boys walks down from Surbiton Hill Park and heads to the same guy. Another group appears from the New Malden direction. It was clear this was an agreed meeting time and there were now over 20 young men congregating around the park bench. Many are well dressed and some are as young as 12.
We stay put in the safety of the car and just watch. The first thoughts are that they are mixing drinks under the street light before going into the park but the older guy, sitting on the bench, is clearly the centre of the attention. Finally we get out and walk towards him. He is European and around 25 years old. He shows no sign of fear but the three groups of young people move away from us and disperse yet remain in eyesight. He soon works out we are not police and plays it cool. Helen talks to him while Greg tries to engage some of the boys, some walk away and back up Surbiton Hill Park, others remain in their groups. The guy gives nothing away but as we withdraw and the group move back around him, it’s clear he is a drug dealer and the team will report this to the police. In Berrylands of all places we have a brazen dealer in drugs!
It’s now 9pm and the team only stay out until 9.30. Our last visit is down to the Skateboard Park on Jubilee Way in Tolworth. This has been recently in the news and I have been keen to see it for myself. The light is poor but we find a group of young people relaxing near the main part of the BMX area. I am amazed as one of the guys demonstrates his skills and he scared me witless that he was doing all these stunts in almost pitch darkness. He is truly gifted and I am impressed. When asked has he been drinking he replies “and do that, no, I don’t drink and do that at the same time”. This group are exactly the type of young people who are looking for somewhere to chill out. If they had an alternative they would have been there. While there are a few cans of beer around it’s nowhere near the same level as we found in Berrylands. They are good humoured and many are from Richard Challoner and Tolworth Girls schools.
Earlier that evening, another group of young people from a “Gang” had set fire to a bush on the skate board park and the fire service had been called out. The group we spoke to talked of their frustration that the local residents would again tar them with the same brush as the “Gang”. One of the group had been a member of the “The Gang” and after being taken to court he now hung out with this group to help him stay clean. The skate board park meant a lot to them, they were just being young people and playing on the track as it was designed. It reminded me how we adults have to make sure we do not blame the actions of a few on the many.
The evening comes to an end and we drive back to Surbiton. I am genuinely impressed with Helen and Greg. I have seen them in action, the way they talk to the young people and the response they get back was great. I have had a small insight to what the issues are; here in leafy Kingston we have a problem with alcohol. Drugs are there and what we witnessed in Berrylands was a bold and organised example. But the access of alcohol; the lack of places for young people under 18 to hang out in and the wider social issues that make young people feel that a good night is getting drunk in park all need to be addressed.
We chat about what Helen and Greg think are the solutions and I have much to think about. Being the Shadow Executive member for Youth Services is as complex and worrying as my other role monitoring the One Council Programme. How can we as a council make a real difference? Are we doing enough with other agencies? How do we link our Youth Team to our Schools better than we do already? And what can we do to bring the young adults in doors to safer places where they can learn how to be adults, away from their parents but secure that they have support they need?
Growing up in the late 70’s/ early 80’s seemed so much easier. That was when a PC was a Police Constable and before Channel 4 was born and who knew what the internet was? And in the immortal words of Victoria Wood, it was when sex was number 10 and I was only up to 7 and half!