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Call for young people to shape West Midlands' future

Published: Tuesday 21 Nov 2023

Young people in the West Midlands are once again being offered the opportunity to have their say on policy and make change in their region.

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) launched the Young Combined Authority (YCA) in 2019 to empower young people to influence regional decision-making, with the Positive Youth Foundation (PYF) serving as a delivery partner.

Now, as the YCA gets ready for its relaunch in early 2024, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and Chair of the WMCA, is encouraging 11-18 year olds to take part and help shape the future of the region.

Since its establishment, the YCA has contributed to policy areas such as transport and cost of living, and in the past year, engaged in initiatives such as the National Transport Youth Survey, WM Concession policies, the Mental Health Commission and the Mental Health Youth Summit.

Left to right: Richard Barlow, Hamaam Shire, Simren Johal, Liv Omar, Talha Ikhlaq and Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, at the YCA Mental Health Summit in July 2023

Left to right: Richard Barlow, Hamaam Shire, Simren Johal, Liv Omar, Talha Ikhlaq and Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, at the YCA Mental Health Summit in July 2023

The Mayor said: “It's imperative that young people feel empowered to play a role in shaping our region, especially as the West Midlands is still one of the youngest and most diverse populations in the country.

“We must continue to address regional inequalities, fostering opportunity, and fortifying our community as we strive to boost our economy. The heart of these plans must involve young people, which is why I encourage many to embrace this challenge, engage with the YCA, and contribute to shaping the future of our region.”

Talha Ikhlaq, a member of the Young Combined Authority, said: “The role of the YCA is to represent young people across our region, to influence decision-making and to provide the youth perspective on social issues.

“When it comes to mental health, we are a voice that recognises cultural and age disparity and we are a voice that understands that this sector needs to adapt to the problems young people now face, whether it be rising crime and cost of living or academic stress, social media influencers, climate change and Covid.”

Following the success of the Mental Health Youth Summit in July, where young people, faith leaders, and mental health professionals came together, the YCA and Faith Strategic Partnership Group (FSPG) collaborated again for a follow-up mental health roundtable event in October, to highlight the important role faith settings play in supporting the mental health of young people.

During the roundtable, 47 people from various community backgrounds discussed mental health support in faith settings, exploring what is already happening in their communities, identifying challenges and exploring ways to improve the current situation.

A positive next step was the decision to include mental health commitments in the WMCA Faith Covenant, and to create culturally sensitive mental health workshops in collaboration with The Delicate Mind and Taraki,

Anyone aged 11-18 years old who lives in the West Midlands is welcome to join the YCA - including current members of youth councils, organisations, professional networks or individuals who are interested in influencing decisions in their region.

Benefits of joining the YCA include the opportunity to inform and influence regional policies, programme design and development, host youth-led events and connect with like-minded people while receiving recognition for their contributions from the WMCA through virtual certificates.

Cllr Kerrie Carmichael, portfolio lead for inclusive communities and leader of Sandwell Council, said: "In building an inclusive and vibrant community, it is essential that the voices of young people are heard and valued. The YCA provides a unique platform for our youth to actively participate in shaping the regional narrative.

“Our diverse community is our strength, and I encourage young individuals to join the YCA community, ensuring their perspectives contribute to our shared vision for an inclusive and prosperous West Midlands."

James Ogundare, youth worker at Positive Youth Foundation, said: "PYF are pleased to be able to support the WMCA with the Young Combined Authority recruitment and development. We will ensure that the young people who join play an important role in making change across the region.

"Policy makers and young people have a unique opportunity to work together to shape the West Midlands region and we look forward to hearing from any young people who would like to join the group."

To join the YCA click here

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