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Bishop of Gloucester’s Youth Forum

Students from Severn Vale joined others from across the county to discuss the key issues of the day as part of the Bishop of Gloucester’s Youth Forum

On Monday 15th March students from across Gloucestershire came together to have their voices heard.  The event was held over Zoom and attended by over 100 business leaders, MPs, local councillors, charities, and public bodies such as the NHS and police, along with representatives from the media.  

The event was organised by Bishop of Gloucester, the Right Revd Rachel Treweek, along with students from the G15 student group, with the aim for them to share how Covid-19 has impacted their lives and express their concerns and hopes for the present and future. Students from across Gloucestershire (including our own Student Leadership group) provided questions and had a chance to hear responses from a huge range of professionals.

Our young people spoke with clarity and passion about the challenges they have faced and their desire to be heard.  Issues raised ranged from concerns around youth mental health, an uncertainty about their future career and education prospects, and a need for greater communication between decision makers and those young people they serve.

For me, one key message is the obligation we have, both as adults and as people of influence, to better control the narrative.  Tell someone they are behind often enough and they’ll feel it. Tell them their mental health has suffered and they’ll feel the weight bear down on them and the walls close in.  That’s not to dismiss the undeniable impact this pandemic has had, but we must cast our eyes to the strength we have all gained and our hope for the future.  Our young people have had the chance to build skills of resilience and independence, organisational skills and IT capabilities, way beyond those they may otherwise have done. It is no secret that employers value skills over all else (something backed up by those that spoke at the meeting) and we need to be reminding our young people of this.  When the whole world stopped running, how can you be behind?

The fact that the meeting was so well attended should be an encouragement to all our young people.  This was no token gesture.  The range of influence at the event was huge, a fact reinforced by the fact that our host, Bishop Rachel, had to leave for a short time to table an amendment in the House of Lords!

Hopefully, we will see real action as a result and most importantly, those who make decisions for us all, will be better informed and mindful of how they can best support future generations through the choices they make.

Mr Hockaday