PIONEERING youngsters from South Tyneside are working on a national children’s manifesto to tackle child poverty.
The four students – Willow Simons, 13, of South Shields, Kate Palmer, 14, Lucy Bell, 14, and Emma True, 15, all of Hebburn – have been joined by other youngsters from Manchester, Liverpool and the London borough of Tower Hamlets to come up with ideas to combat the issue.
The teenagers’ innovative suggestions in their draft manifesto include providing the first school uniform free of charge, and using anonymous uniform banks, as well as offering free school travel for pupils on free school meals.
And in order to increase youth participation in politics, they are calling for politics to be incorporated into the education system, the voting age to be reduced to 16 and a percentage of MPs to represent young people.
Once the strategy is complete, the youngsters will present their manifesto to an All Party Parliamentary Group and they will then be tasked with implementing their ideas and campaigning with their respective local authorities.
The group, who are all members of Friends Against Bullying and Junior Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB), attended a workshop at South Tyneside Council’s Thurston Outdoor Education Centre, in the Lake District, to work on the strategy.
They are also working with Oxford PhD student Rys Farthing to examine the issue of child poverty.
Coun Joan Atkinson, lead member for children, young people and families at South Tyneside Council, said: “I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling an immense sense of pride in these young people whose work could feed directly into national policy.
“I was very keen for South Tyneside to get involved with this initiative after I visited the Child Action Poverty Group and met Rys last year.
“Although all local authorities were invited to take part in this initiative, only a handful decided to take part and I’m so pleased that we are one of them.
“Our young people have shown a firm grasp of the issue of child poverty and their original ideas have highlighted them as superb ambassadors for the borough.”
While at Thurston, where they met to put the finishing touches to the manifesto, the group was rewarded for their dedication with a selection of adventurous activities including raft-building and team orienteering, which also aimed to further their personal and social development.