Young people pioneer groundbreaking initiative

Eleven inspirational projects for young people across Somerset are benefiting from a £50,000 partnership fund aimed at improving lives in the county.

Members of Somerset Youth Parliament were trained to decide on competing funding bids, pioneering a move to put young people at the heart of the project.

Leader of Somerset County Council David Fothergill said: “This is a fantastic initiative. We should be so proud of our young people – their drive, commitment and enthusiasm.

“I hope others across the country will follow our lead and give young people the responsibility for making decisions on issues that affect them and their peers.”

Somerset County Council set aside £25,000 from its Prevention Fund, set up to finance Council work and community projects that prevent issues, problems and needs developing; or tackling them early to stop them escalating.

Somerset Community Foundation, working in partnership with the County Council, secured £25,000 of match-funding from the #iwill Fund – a combination of Government and Lottery funding.

Groups from across the county were encouraged to apply for grants to run events, campaigns and initiatives that support young people to take part in community social action projects focused on the issues that matter to them.

Somerset Community Foundation has been working with the county’s Youth Parliament to train its members as decision makers and enable them to allocate grants where the criteria were met. The funding has now been awarded.

Councillor Frances Nicholson, the County Council’s Lead Member for Children’s Services, said: “It’s fantastic that children and young people will have the chance to take part in campaigns and projects or volunteer to help improve the lives of others, thanks to this initiative.

“Somerset’s Youth Parliament put in a lot of hard work to read all the applications that came in and to decide how to allocate the funding. That shows how passionate they are about helping their peers and how interested they are in issues that affect them and where they live.”

Successful bids range from film-making and environmental projects to a re-cycled fashion show and supporting young people to get their voices heard.

Go Create in Taunton gained funding for a project to provide a safe space for young people attending Taunton’s first Pride event. Working with LGBTQ+ group 2BU, the scheme provides peer support, event planning and training, and preparation. Also in Taunton, Halcon Youth Club in Taunton successfully bid for funds to run a recycled fashion show.

In Burnham-on-Sea, Actiontrack will provide creative workshops for young people to explore social and political issues through debate and democratic processes.

Young people in the west of Somerset will have the chance to gain leadership and training skills so they can take part in social action projects locally. This is being provided via Minehead Eye.

Youth Parliament Advisory Group Member Amelia Cadmore said: “I think that the grant fund training has been beneficial to both us and local youth groups as they have gained funding from us to support them and their social action projects, and we have gained life skills which will be forever useful.”

Deputy Member of the Youth Parliament Lara Martin, aged 13, added: “I feel that the impact of this grant will be huge in terms of what young people can gain from being part of these amazing projects that we were able to fund. It made me feel so great to be able to give these opportunities to young people just like me, and how we (Youth Parliament) can really help make a difference! With this funding young people can learn about the importance of community in each other’s lives in the process of taking part – what really matters overall!”

Andy Ridgewell, Programmes Manager at Somerset Community Foundation said: “We’re really thrilled the #iwill Fund is allowing young people the opportunity to get involved in the grant-making process, and we’re looking forward to seeing the positive change this funding will make within the community.”