What issues affect young people in Wigan borough today? Be it anti-social behaviour, negative stereotyping or pricey bus fares, what better people to ask than the teenagers who are striving to improve the borough – for the young and old alike.
Devan Lucas and Mark Talbot have been elected as the UK Youth Parliament representatives for Wigan borough for the coming year. They beat off competition from nine other candidates following a contest in which more than 2000 votes were cast – the highest number ever.
Between them they must now represent the views of young people at a local, regional and national level.
Seventeen-year-old Devan is from Kitt Green and is studying biology, chemistry, geography and psychology at Deanery Sixth Form College.
Eventually she hopes to study a politics-related subject at university.
Mark is 18, from Lowton and is studying politics, history and business at Winstanley College. Next year he hopes to gain a place at Aberystwyth University for a degree in politics and strategic studies.
Regardless of their backgrounds they have one thing in common – a desire to raise the image of young people and to get their views heard.
And it’s a job they are not taking lightly.
One of the issues they plan to tackle is people’s perceptions of young people.
Devan says: “We are not all good and some bad things happen, but I do think it’s a bit unfair.
“When we were elected the article was so small in the centre pages of the local paper, but as soon as a young person does something bad it is straight on the front page.
“The UKYP elections were a really big, positive event for young people in the borough, but unfortunately it is bad news that sells papers.”
Mark says: “It’s unfair that it’s the minority letting the majority down.
“Because of the bad press surrounding young people, we get stereotyped before the older generations get a chance to know us.
“My advice to young people would be to get involved with things in your community.
“It might not make a big story in the paper, but if you keep doing small things eventually some of them will stick.”
Devan and Mark are only too aware of the issues facing young people, but over the course of their tenure they will be striving to improve opportunities for young people. They know that what some view as would-be anti-social behaviour, may in fact be a lack of activities available for young people.
Devan says: “I think sometimes young people feel like they haven’t got a lot of places to go so they have no other choice but to hang around on the streets.
“We are quite lucky in the borough as there are a lot of youth groups during the week, but there is something lacking on Friday and Saturday nights.
“We would like to create a central place for young people.
“What we need is for young people, businesses and councillors to come forward with ideas on a venue and how to set this up.”
Another major problem for young people trying to get out and about and involved in positive activities is the cost.
Mark has recently been chosen to sit on a special forum of young people who advise Greater Manchester public transport providers on how to improve services for young people.
Mark says: “Public transport is a major issue for young people. Since 2006 the cost of diesel has risen by seven and a half per cent. The cost of bus fares went up fourteen and a half per cent last year alone.
“Nearly all young people rely on public transport and it’s clear they are not getting the best deal. There are a lot of great things for young people to get involved with but the cost of getting to them is an issue.”
Devan and Mark are part of the Wigan Youth Parliament, a group of committed young people who meet together regularly to try and influence decision makers on issues of importance that are relevant to young people.
This summer they will be among the first group of MYPs to be allowed to debate in the House of Commons.
Alongside MYPs from across the UK they will discuss the Youth Parliament’s national campaigns for this year – political education on the secondary school curriculum, a national public transport concessionary card for all young people under 18 in full time education and the abolition of university tuition fees.
Devan says: “I stood in the UKYP elections to make a difference and to change things for young people for the better. We want people to get in touch with their view and issues.
“We also want to publicise different forums and ways young people can have their say on issues relating to them. Mark and I are trying to set up an open surgery with the borough’s MPs for young and older people to drop into – although this might have to be after our exams.”
"When we were elected the article was so small in the centre pages of the local paper, but as soon as a young person does something bad it is straight on the front page. The UKYP elections were a really big, positive event for young people in the borough, but unfortunately it is bad news that sells papers."
You can contact Devan and Mark by emailing Young People's Voice or text 07930192311.
Ways for young people to have their say in Wigan borough are improving all the time. For more information on how to get your voice heard go to: Have Your Say (external link)