The YEP is today launching a new campaign to make sure that thousands of children are given a voice to help shape the future of leeds. Laura Bowyer reports.
Leeds is on a mission to be the best city in the country for children and young people to grow up in.
And today the Yorkshire Evening Post is throwing its weight behind that vision.
We are launching a major new survey aimed at improving the lives of youngsters across the city - and to give them a voice.
There are approximately 180,000 children and young people in Leeds and we want to find out exactly what it is like to be a child growing up here.
We want children and adults to tell us what they like about Leeds , what they don’t like and crucially, what they want to see change.
We are also calling on the business community to sign a pledge to give their assurances they will provide opportunities to brighten the prospects for every child living in Leeds.
Child Friendly Leeds was launched by Leeds City Council in a bid to help Leeds become one of the best cities in the UK.
And listening to future generations who will shape the city is at the heart of that scheme.
The initiative aims to make sure:
children have fun growing up;
children are safe from harm;
children achieve in school;
youngsters lead healthy lives;
children have a voice and influence in the city.
So far more than 300 children have signed up to become young advisors to enable them to have a say about how some of the big decisions facing the city affect children.
Over 170 organisations have already pledged to support the campaign to give children the opportunity to have access to mentoring, work experience and outreach programmes.
The YEP has joined forces with the council in a major new partnership aimed at improving the lives of children in Leeds.
We are throwing down the gauntlet to encourage the city’s thriving business community and organisations to join forces to play their part in making sure children in Leeds have the best start to life.
Nicola Furbisher, managing editor of the Yorkshire Evening Post, said: “Children and young people in Leeds play an absolutely crucial role in shaping the future of the city - and it is about time that their voices were heard.
“Child Friendly Leeds aims to bring communities, businesses, schools and organisations together to make Leeds the best it can possibly be for our youngsters.
“It is all about making sure that our children can be safe, happy, successful and, above all, listened to.
“The YEP is delighted to play our part to really champion our city’s children
“But we need everyone to join together to make sure youngsters get the best possible start in life because they are our future.”
Council bosses launched their vision to make sure that children in the city have the best possible start to life with Child Friendly Leeds nearly two years ago.
Their project immediately won the Royal seal of approval, with the Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh entering the first signatures in the campaign’s Visitor’s Book, during their visit.
Councillor Judith Blake, executive member for Children’s Services, said: “Crucially it’s all about putting the child at the centre of everything we do. It’s so important that they have a voice.
“Often in the past we have been good at listening and not so good at taking notice and doing things as a result of what they have told us.
“Our responsibility is to listen and take notice as a result.”
Some of the main aims of the initiative are to safely reduce the number of children coming into care and increase attendance and attainment in schools.
Education chiefs also hope that the city-wide approach will in turn reduce the number of children who are not in education, employment or training.
Officials say the city is already starting to feel the benefits of the scheme.
Coun Blake said attendance has already started to increase in primary and secondary schools and the number of children entering into care is falling.
Coun Blake added: “It’s really exciting to profile some of the fun things with Child Friendly Leeds but there is a really serious side.
“We want to make sure we protect the most vulnerable children and young people in the city and do everything we can to support them. “We want to make sure that every young person has the best opportunity in life and realises their full potential wherever they live and no matter what their background is.
“There are cases in the North where children are coming into school when they have not eaten over the weekend.
“We have to work together to make sure this is not allowed to continue.
“The serious part of this is children and young people are our future. If you don’t get things right for them then how will we really develop Leeds as the best city in the UK? It is absolutely critical in our aims for the future of the city.”
The YEP has been named as the official media partners for the first-ever Child Friendly Leeds Awards and we are set to reveal the nominees on Wednesday.
The partnership will also see the launch of a new column in the newspaper written especially by young people in our city.
The council’s children’s services department looks set to lose nearly £22m of its overall budget next year. But Coun Blake hopes these savings will not impact Leeds’s ability to become the most child friendly city in the UK. She added: “We have to be realistic about the financial climate and our real concern is that if we are not careful making the cuts we are having to make then it would increase in need. We have to change the way that we work and the pressures on us as a council are so tremendous and on the scale we have never seen before. We have to be supportive and creative.”
DO YOU THINK LEEDS IS CHILD FRIENDLY?
As part of the YEP’s survey we want to hear from you.
We want to hear from children, parents, carers and organisations about what it is like to be a child growing up in Leeds.
Tell us what it is like to be a child in Leeds, whether the city is child friendly and what changes you would like to make .
Tweet us via #cfleeds
Visit our Facebook page
Or write to Yorkshire Evening Post, No 1 Leeds, 26 Whitehall Road, Leeds, LS12 1BE