A community worker has warned that if Derry & Strabane is successful in its bid to become European Youth Capital, the event must make a lasting difference and not become a gravy train.
Paul Hughes from Enagh Youth Forum was speaking as he welcomed Derry’s bid for the title in 2019, and urged the council and others to do all they can to improve the lot of young people from marginalised and disadvantaged areas now.
Mr Hughes said: “We strongly believe that local Council must do more to improve services for young people here. The core focus of this campaign must be about bringing real change for local young people, and not just focus on promoting the city’s tourism potential.
“The most important thing of all in this campaign should be about promoting ‘inclusion’ for all of our young people, not just the well-off, articulate ones but rather let’s reach out to the marginalised, disaffected and often forgotten young people all of whom have so much potential. Let’s hear those voices.”
Mr Hughes said the statistics on suicide, unemployment, homelessness and child poverty in relation to Derry were ‘absolutely shocking’.
“We must change this now and build in support systems for young people and genuinely value our young people.
“Derry becoming European Youth Capital 2019 should not be simply viewed as a business opportunity for many, or another gravy train with a few at the top benefiting financially. The campaign itself must be grassroots, and come from young people in all areas of our city and rural communities. European Youth Capital status must benefit all young people, it must go some way in improving the lives of young people here.”
A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council welcomed Enagh Youth Forum’s input.
She said the Council was fully committed to a “broad engagement approach with young people from all communities”, adding:
“Key to the success of the European Youth Capital bid will be getting young people directly involved and to date a group of young people have been offering advice to Council on the most appropriate and fun ways to get effective engagement.
“This engagement is more than consulting on the themes of the bid but it will give opportunities and support for young people to become ambassadors, members of working groups and organisers of events. Details of how to get involved with the European Youth Capital bid is to be launched in the next few weeks.”
She added that Derry’s 2019 bid will be “set in the context of the Community Plan which will ensure that young people continue to be engaged in policy decisions which affect their lives beyond 2019.