•August 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Kids Count Minibus

Kids Count has just acquired an LDV 17-seater minibus with the kind assistance of the Police & Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire.

The minibus will be key to transporting our Young Volunteers around Hertfordshire, as part of our new project: setting up a Youth Justice Youth Board to advise the Herts P.C.C.

The minibus had one careful owner from new (a bus / coach company !) and is in great condition for its age. It has a coach-built interior with removable seats and a tail-lift for wheelchairs, allowing us to transport Young Volunteers needing disabled access.

The vehicle has been given a thorough clean, inside & out, and now is adorned with Kids Count branding, as shown in the picture below.

The increased flexibility that the minibus will provide gives us wider scope to increase the work that we do with young people.


•February 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The winter Olympics are on the tip of everyone’s tongues at the moment. Many of us are tuning in every night to see what’s been happening down on the curling rink, on the skeleton track or just to keep an eye on how many medals GB has secured. Unfortunately, the GB team have been making the news for other reasons. After being disqualified in the speed skating event, Elise Christie has spoken of how she had to de-activate her twitter account because of abuse and threats she had received after being disqualified. Although she didn’t go into the details of what was said to her online, it is clear that this was a form of cyber bullying.

And this is far from an isolated case. The last few years have seen a dramatic rise in the prevalence of cyber-bullying. One particular survey has reported that 38% of the young people they spoke to had been targeted by online bullies. The survey also found that there had been a 7% rise in those receiving counselling for cyber-related incidents. These statistics are shocking.

One of the major issues is that we are noticing a trend where, unlike in the past when bullying was face-to-face, it is now spreading into the world of technology and social media.

Bullying is quickly becoming an online phenomenon where the bullies can sit behind a computer screen and are able to hide their identity. There is also increased access to the victim so bullying can take place at any time of the day. Whereas before the bullies were unable to reach the victim when they were at home, it has become the case now that nowhere is seen as ‘safe’ for the victim.

As the bully has the added protection of anonymity, they may often take the level of abuse further than they intended. Often the victims feel that they do not want to report the abuse as they fear that their technological devices may be taken away as a precaution or punishment.

One thing is clear; with cyber bullying becoming the new trend, the laws surrounding bullying need to adapt to protect young people from this type of abuse. Anti-bullying policies put in place by schools are sometimes outdated, and need to be modernised to reflect this trend. Teachers need to be educated in noticing the signs of this type of bullying, and pupils need to feel that they are able to talk to teachers so that it can be stopped early.

Prevention is key. Early education of young people into recognising if they or a friend are victims of cyber abuse is vital, and educating young people on the impact that online bullying can have is also key so those carrying out the abuse are aware of how their actions can affect others. Another strand that is key to tackling cyberbullying is by improving the laws surrounding it.
With cyberbullying such a huge issue, it is important that policy makers, teachers, parents and the authorities don’t ignore the problem. If we have any hope of addressing the issue, and saving thousands of young people from suffering from this horrific ordeal then it is time to act now.

Conference #6- First day at the labour party conference

•January 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The day started with a drive from Eastbourne to Brighton. It was nice, I got to experience some beautiful scenery; hillsides, the sea and green land…. lets not forget seeing the sheep and horses!

We arrived at the conference site ready for the day ahead. Before the meeting I was feeling nervous, however, once I started talking the nerves slowly eased.

I loved seeing so many important people taking a stand and actually wanting to make a difference to the lives of young people. I was surprised at the fact that people were taking an interest and were truly engaged.

I really hope that we get a chance to work with them in bringing about policies that will influence and improve the lives of young people.

I loved the fact that I got the chance to do filming and working with professional equipment and successfully film a number of interviews.

We listened to a number of policy changes that the Labour Party wants to implement:
•Make changes to transport available for young people
•Improve education for youth
•Providing free breakfasts to primary school pupils
•Criticised rises in the tuition fees and the implementation of free schools

Overall it was a great experience at the party conference for the first time. I loved the atmosphere, especially on the main stage. I have learned many skills that I would not normally get the chance to practice, and I am grateful to be given this experience!

Conference #5- Lib Dem Conference: That’s a wrap!

•January 19, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Our time at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference 2013 had come to an end. After three days of debating, discussing and information sharing, there was a lot to digest on a broad spectrum of subjects ranging from the economy to education to Europe.

From a young person’s perspective it was refreshing to see that a lot of issues that were discussed were those that influenced young people. These ranged from youth unemployment, school dinners, and amendments to university financing, all of which showed that young people play a vital role in decision making. It also showed that even though a lot of young people are ‘turned off’ by politics, politics does encompass issues that directly affect young people.

As part of a young persons charity, we often find that if you speak about the issues affecting young people, rather than party politics, that most young people are highly passionate and motivated to discuss solutions and to seek change. With that in mind, it is important to involve youth in decisions that will affect them as much as possible.

Although there’s no doubt there were some important children’s issues on the agenda, it did surprise me that bullying, particularly cyber bullying, wasn’t really on the agenda. With high-profile cases in the media recently such as teen Hannah Smith who committed suicide following months of horrific online tormenting, we were surprised that this wasn’t an issue that was really discussed.

Bullying has always been a problem, but with the huge explosion of social media in more recent years, it’s become clear that it is an issue that needs addressing, particularly by decision makers. We need to make sure we keep up with the issue and put safeguards in place as soon as possible. Kids Count made sure to champion this at the conference by talking to delegates like Tim Farron MP and the Rt Hon David Laws MP about our “I Stand For” anti-bullying empowerment campaign. We invite politicians like them to stand up and tell us what they stand for so young people can see they shouldn’t be ashamed of who they are. The soundbites that we collect will be made into a short promotional video for our campaign, so watch this space!

While disappointed bullying wasn’t discussed more, we were happy to see that domestic abuse WAS on the agenda; “Preventing and Tackling Sexual and Domestic Violence”.

As the motion said, “1.2 million women and 800,000 men in the UK last year alone suffered domestic abuse”, hence it’s clearly a big issue that needs addressing.

In Kids Count we’ve found this is an issue that effects a lot of young people in their own relationships as well as within their family; often they haven’t been educated to realise that this behaviour is wrong. It was good to see that in this motion, young people were specifically mentioned as needing more understanding of what domestic abuse is. We think that there needs to be laws and safeguards in place specifically relating to young people as in the past domestic abuse hasn’t really been considered in relation to youth.

An ideal place to start would be to have education in schools on youth domestic violence as the Liberal Democrat motion proposes, but we would like to see further moves from politicians to prevent this kind of behaviour in future.

On that note, reflecting back on the conference there has been some necessary subjects discussed and moves made for improvement and some issues I would have expected to see discussed that weren’t. You can’t have everything, especially since politics encompasses so much, but it’s been really interesting to witness how engaged in community issues some politicians are.

We would like to thank all the politicians and delegates we met for making us so welcome and the Glaswegians for their warmth and friendliness.

Until next time!

Conference #4- Lib Dem Conference: Clegg Q&A

•January 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Hello again readers.

We finished our three days at the conference with a Q&A session with Nick Clegg which involved members of the Lib Dems submitting questions and then being allowed to ask a follow up question. I found this to be extremely informative and the topics ranged from “what would it be like to be in a Labour coalition?” to things like “why don’t we keep zero-hour contracts?”

Bearing in mind that I can ramble on for ages, I will focus on the topics that I found particularly interesting, and hopefully you will find them interesting too. “Why should I remain a Lib Dem when I am continually disenchanted by our policies in this new coalition?” was a question asked by a member of the party who brought up examples like the bedroom tax (If you don’t know about it, Google it) and the many cuts that have happened across the board.

It was interesting hearing the responses that Nick Clegg gave, who said that being the junior party in the coalition was not without its difficulties but they have done their best to make sure that cuts are happening in the right places and affect the right people. He said that cuts were inevitable given the state of the economy and whatever party was in power would be doing the same. I had never considered before the dynamics of the two parties, as well as not fully appreciating the difficulties of righting the economy. For those of you who thought the same maybe these words will do something for you as well.

Anyhow I’ll wrap this up by saying we had an amazing time at the conference and especially in Glasgow, if you’re ever here I suggest eating some haggis, tats and swede.


Conference #3- Police and crime commissioners and youth unemployment

•January 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

On day two of the Liberal Democrat Party Conference Kids Count excitedly transformed into fully-fledged reporter mode. Having already quite literally bumped into former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy, there was no sign of Clegg at this point. There were, however, plenty of opportunities for us to grill members of the party so that we could get to the bottom of where the liberal party really stands on all issues youth-related.

After a morning full to the brim with intriguing interviews we got the chance to delve into the mind of journalist Evan Davis (who you might recognise as the presenter of the BBCs Dragons Den), to find out his thoughts on various issues affecting young people. Specifically he spoke about an issue that we are particularly interested in, the newly elected police and crime commissioners and the effect that they are having on our communities.

Interestingly, he posed the view that it was too early to be able to judge their success, and that it would take several years before we begin to see the effects that these commissioners may have on their communities. In his opinion they are a great way to engage in democracy, but at the same time with such a low turnout in their elections it is hard to see how effective they will be. The occurrence of such a low turnout suggests that the public may be apathetic to the existence of police and crime commissioners, or that they were ill-informed about their roles prior to the elections. Whether you agree with his opinion or not, one thing can be said was that he was a pleasure to interview; interesting and well informed on a wide range of subjects, in particular issues relating to young people.

After a full day at conference centre, tired eyed and full bellied, I reflected on the prevalent themes that we came across while in Glasgow.

As mentioned in the last blog, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg mentioned the need to address youth unemployment, something that was mirrored on the conference floor.

Firstly, Gordon Birtwistle MP was speaking to a group of young people from the Youth Zone about the success of the apprenticeship program that the Lib Dems have been running for the past three years. He went on further to stress that there are alternative paths to employment that are distinct from the university pathway, giving an anecdote about a young girl that he had met who shunned the University of Oxford AND still managed to become a hugely successful engineer at BAE Systems.

Now is the time for a shift in attitude. We need to understand that university isn’t suitable for everyone and that there are alternative pathways to employment and other ways to become successful. Some careers would certainly be better accessed through more hands-on training than book study at university and that should be considered acceptable.

The apprenticeship program definitely sounds like a good one but needs more exposure so that more and more people are become aware of the opportunities it offers. Apprenticeships should be available in more fields of work so that those who aren’t suited to studying are still able to access those careers they want.

As well as having alternative options, part of the problem young people are faced with is that they are just not aware of the careers that are available to them, the careers they could pursue if only they knew about them. There’s a plethora of careers out there but to someone at the bottom of the career ladder, you often find yourself lost in job titles that you don’t understand.

Many of us can relate to the motion from Liberal Youth’s chair Sarah Harding; that there should be more careers guidance to young people before they reach employment age and not just relating to the obvious jobs. Connexions has been scrapped but something needs to take its place so we can all get the best step into adult life.

Being at the conference really makes you aware of the sheer number of activists on so many different topics, let’s see what else is on the agenda when it comes to young people this conference season.

Conference #2 – Childcare and paternity policies

•January 14, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Throughout my childhood I was always aware of the struggle my mother went through trying to care for my siblings.

My mother was an asylum seeker from Angola who fled to England with her children, leaving behind my father who sacrificed a lot to ensure our safety. My mother faced new challenges upon reaching England. I was always aware of the difficulty of balancing her job with the unpaid hours of housework and caring. As a result of my upbringing, the Liberal Democrats’ new policy which focuses on increasing the allocation of free childcare hours, was one of the topics that piqued my interest.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield, who has always maintained a positive role in issues regarding social mobility and wellbeing, headed up the Lib Dem group on “A Balanced Working Life”, whose key policy proposals are focused on improving living conditions of low- and middle-income households by establishing an official living wage, promoting a major expansion of free childcare hours and encouraging more parental leave by fathers with an introduction of a “Daddy Month”.

I am pleased the Lib Dems have taken action to improve the situation of many families like mine, and are taking steps to strengthen the middle and lower classes as well as attempting to alleviate the burden on parents who have to juggle their professional and familial responsibilities.

Another point of praise for this policy is the focus on paternity leave. As a member of a youth charity I often hear that one problem is the lack of positive male role models, but despite the apparent shift towards greater gender equality, women are entitled to 26 weeks’ ordinary maternity leave, however men are only permitted up to two weeks’ paternity leave (Directgov, 2013). This not only pressures the mother to leave her job for longer and act as the principal parent, but it also damages a father’s opportunity to equally participate in parenting and become that positive role model.

The policy’s proposal for a “living wage” suggests a lack of economic thinking. Following the financial crisis of 2008 the UK has developed a substantial debt and the suggestion of offering this wage demonstrates to me a lack of understanding of our current economic position.

Whilst I agree with the intentions of the policy in simple monetary terms, the implementation of all these policies seems very costly. Only time will tell if the party is able to implement these policies, however I recommend that focusing on achieving these plans while keeping costs low will at least improve those chances.