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Blank canvas for children to “re-imagine” Rotherham

Published on Wednesday, 25th October 2017 in Youth support news

Children and young people have been given a blank canvas to help drive through changes which will make Rotherham more child friendly.

In a number of surveys and events held this summer youngsters from across the town all said there was not enough for young people and children to do in Rotherham; that they did not feel safe and they did not feel they were part of a wider community.

But what they did feel really strongly about was they all wanted to be proud of coming from Rotherham and they would like to stay in the borough if things could be changed for the better.

Now Rotherham Council and partners have asked children and young people to give their ideas about what could be done to change things; to “reimagine” what Rotherham could look like so they can feed this back into future plans for the town.

At an event last week children and young people asked councillors, officers and partners to listen to their views. Kani, aged 18, from the town’s Different But Equal Board which is supported by the Children, Young People’s and Families consortium (VAR) which led a 100-strong event in the summer to establish what young people wanted in their town and issues they were facing said: “We all want Rotherham to be known for the right reasons not the wrong ones.

“As young people we need our voices to be heard. Only then can real changes be made which will make a difference to our lives. We want to be able to come into Rotherham town centre and not feel intimidated by drunks in the street. We want a reliable transport service and we want to have somewhere to call our own where we can do activities for our age range which don’t cost a lot of money.

“We want to work with those in charge to ensure our voices are heard in the work that is going on now and in the future to make Rotherham a great place for everyone to enjoy.”

One of the initiatives carried out over the summer was a community journalism project where a number of young people aged 11 and above were given cameras to interview other young people about what would make Rotherham better.

“The asks from the children interviewed were really quite simple,” said Morwenna Foden from South Yorkshire Housing Association’s Co:Create team who led the project on behalf of the Council. “They are proud to be from Rotherham and they want it to be a cleaner, safer place for them to have fun.

“We really want to see children and young people leading the agenda on what makes Rotherham a great place to grow up. That is why we’re working with the Council to help make this happen.”

Cllr Alan Atkin, who is leading the child friendly project for the Council added: “We have a real opportunity to get this right and do the right thing to not only help current groups of children and young people to come into Rotherham town centre and to feel part of the changes, but also for future generations to come.

“What is clear is there is a real passion by everyone – young and old – to get Rotherham back on its feet and be somewhere we can all be really proud of again. “We have some great plans in the pipeline, like the town centre masterplan and culture and leisure projects, and it is exactly these sorts of initiatives which we need to be getting children and young people involved with now so they can enhance them and make them fit for purpose.”

Child Friendly Rotherham, as it is being coined, is motivated by UNICEF’s child friendly city campaign inspired by the convention of human rights. It also takes a leaf out of Leeds City Council similar pledge, which it started five years ago.

Other examples of work done by young people to rebrand their town this summer included an intensive three-week writing programme led the town’s Grimm and Co literacy charity. A group of 30 youngsters took over a vacant shop in the town centre creating the Embassy for Reimagining Rotherham, which was commissioned by Rotherham's Cultural Educational Partnership to enable children and young people to determine how we consult and rules for reimagining. The youngsters created their manifesto which included ideas to have a children’s art space; communal garden areas and even flying cars.

Another summer initiative was the Different But Equal Board event, led by the Children, Young People and Families Consortium. The event attracted 100 young people to discuss issues important to them including what would make Rotherham more child friendly. The board and event are examples of how bringing children and young people together to have a voice can improve outcomes for children and young people more widely.

All the views from the various recent projects will be compiled into a report which will be reviewed by Rotherham Council leaders as part of an action plan to bring the ideas to life.

To view the community journalism project:

Go to the community journalism website

Watch the video for the Embassy for Reimagining Rotherham

The Different But Equal Board film will be released early next month.

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