Youngsters across North Ayrshire have helped shape a new strategy to help young people.

The council’s Connected Communities Team worked closely with young people, youth workers and stakeholders on the key themes affecting young people to develop the sector-leading strategy.

The Youth Participation and Citizenship Strategy, known as “Step Up, Speak Out” sets out how young people across North Ayrshire can play an active role in their schools and communities.

Aaran McDonald, MSYP, said: “The new strategy is creating a more inclusive North Ayrshire and creating a council where all young people can have their views heard at every stage of the process.

“By creating a more engaging strategy where young people from all backgrounds are treated equally helps create a new system where everyone is welcome.”

The strategy has been refreshed this year to reflect the learning from 2018’s Year of Young People (YoYP), the experiences of young people during the Covid-19 pandemic and the growing confidence of young people to speak up about their needs in a changing world.

Justin Jones, Executive Member and Chair of Irvine Youth Forum, said: “The development and refresh of the new ‘Youth Participation Strategy’ will only add to prosperous work already done ensuring young people’s voices are heard in North Ayrshire.

“The hard work put into this strategy, by young people and staff, will help create amazing opportunities for young people and will ensure that the impact of COVID-19 on young people is taken into account as we emerge from the pandemic.”

Since the first strategy launched in 2015, North Ayrshire has been leading the way, ensuring that young people have a voice and are provided with opportunities to co-produce and co-deliver on vital pieces of work that benefit young people in the community.

Some of the key highlights include:

· The North Ayrshire Youth Services team awarded the COSLA Gold Award

· North Ayrshire became a Child Centred Council in 2019

· Development of the Youth Participatory Budgeting process to ensure young people are involved in distributing and applying for funding, shortlisting applicants and voting on bids that benefit young people in their community

· Young people were involved in a working group to discuss the Cost of the School Day which helped to develop the Council’s Child Poverty Plan

· North Ayrshire became the first Local Authority in Scotland to provide free sanitary provision in schools and Council buildings in response to discussions with young people at Joint Cabinet

· Worked with young people to secure funding, design and create a mental health toolkit with resources, distractions and information about help available – which has since been made available in all schools and community centres to support staff and volunteers in discussing mental health with young people

· Hosted a full year of large events, opportunities and activities for young people during the Year of Young People in 2018

To continue the great work in North Ayrshire, a number of pledges have been made by various partners including North Ayrshire Council’s Education Service, Police Scotland, NHS Ayrshire and Arran, North Ayrshire Council Children’s services and many others.

These are commitments to involve young people in planning and decision-making so that no decision about them is made without them. The strategy also includes a pledge from young people themselves, to commit to their representative role and provide an equal voice for future change.

To ensure that ‘nothing about us without us’ becomes a reality in North

Ayrshire, we invite everyone to make their own pledge, whether personal or on behalf of an organisation, on how you will ensure that young people’s voices are represented, valued and actioned in all planning, decisions, consultation and projects that you are planning and delivering.”

You can share your pledge on social media using the hashtags #NAStepUpSpeakOut #NANothingAboutUsWhitoutUs

Councillor Louise McPhater, Cabinet Member for Participatory Democracy, said: “It’s been a wonderful learning experience working alongside the team and to be a part of the development of this youth participation strategy.

“The strategy clearly sets out the needs and issues that our young people are facing and we are committed to ensuring that these will shape future policies and priorities. It’s so important that our young people are part of decision making, their needs and voices must be heard.”

You can read the Youth Participation and Citizenship Strategy 2021-2025 on the Council website here. The new strategy complements the Children’s Service Plan 2020-2023 and the Children’s Rights Report 2020-23 and the annual Child Poverty Action Plan. These set out the vision for all our children and young people to have the best start in life and for North Ayrshire to be the best place in Scotland to grow up.