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Hundreds of young people help Islington’s Fair Futures Commission shape vision for brighter future

Islington Council leader Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the Fair Futures Commission Jermain Jackman, Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn and Islington Youth Councillor Miriam Fleary at the recent Fair Futures Commission event.

Islington Council leader Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the Fair Futures Commission Jermain Jackman, Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn and Islington Youth Councillor Miriam Fleary at the recent Fair Futures Commission event.

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Hundreds of children and young people across Islington have given the unvarnished truth about what it’s like to grow up in the borough – and how they think it can be improved.

Key themes are developing about how to improve the lives and prospects of Islington’s young people, from birth to young adulthood, as part of the work of the borough’s Fair Futures Commission.

Early next year the independent commission, set up by Islington Council and chaired by singer-songwriter and former Islington student Jermain Jackman, will set out a road map of recommendations based on its research, with the aim of making Islington the best possible place to grow up.

Over the last five months the commission has held a raft of debates, workshops and events with young people and professionals to get a truthful insight into what it’s like growing up in Islington, the challenges they face and ideas for practical, positive action.

The final workshop was held earlier this month and saw young people brainstorm ideas on how best to equip them for life and the world of work, with professionals from business, education, health, social and youth work sectors pitching in.

This understanding has led to the emergence of some key themes that will inform the commission’s recommendations on how to improve the lives – and life chances – of Islington’s young people for generations to come. The draft recommendations include:

  • A guarantee for young people living or studying in the borough about the outcomes and support they can expect;
  • A better focus on work experience;
  • Making life skills in preparation for adulthood a reality;
  • A greater emphasis on youth leadership, social action and giving young people a say in planning and managing public spaces and housing;
  • Developing housing options for young people that allow them to pursue education and work, whatever their background;
  • Changing the approach to rules on estates, such as ‘no ball games’.

The commission is formulating recommendations that take account of the severe budget pressures on the council, but also the opportunities afforded by its relationships with other organisations in the private and public sectors.

Jermain Jackman, chair of the Fair Futures Commission, said: “Growing up in the city today isn’t easy. We need to create and provide opportunities with young people to empower and support their ambitions because they are the future.

“We have worked with as many people as possible to come up with creative ideas to ensure our children and young people have the ability to be the best they can be.

“Who better to know the solutions to the barriers that children and young people face than children and young people themselves?”

Cllr Joe Caluori, one of the commissioners and the council’s executive member for children, young people and families, said: “This has been a really successful and eye-opening process.

“Hearing about growing up in Islington from the young people themselves has given us all a new point of view on what we do as a council. It’s also sparked some great ideas on what we can do differently to improve the experiences and life chances of thousands of children, for generations to come.”

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn spoke at the final workshop, and praised the commission’s approach of developing recommendations for action based on listening to young people.

He said: “If, as a society, we don't invest in our young people then we are giving up on ourselves, our futures and our ambitions.

“It is all very well me talking about this but it is much better if young people tell us what they think is good about what goes on in our borough at the moment – and there are lots of very good things – but also what they think is deficient.”

The full report and final recommendations of the Fair Futures Commission will be published in February.