Participation in Practice: West Sussex creates youth e-panel

Friday, August 19, 2011

Youth panels have become a standard way for councils to establish the views of local young people, but such forums tend to be limited in their membership and can struggle to be truly representative.

In West Sussex, the county council's youth participation team is trying to ensure more young people from the area contribute their views by creating an online youth panel in addition to its existing youth forums. The youth e-panel allows teenagers to take part in surveys and consultations and have a say on the services available to young people and the wider community. Young people just have to register through the website www.westsussex.gov.uk/youthepanel in order to take part.

Sophie Bowler, 18, from Crawley, West Sussex, is among the 350 young people who have already signed up to the panel. She used to sit on the council's youth opportunity fund panel and was encouraged by West Sussex's youth participation co-ordinator Lara Pearce to join the e-panel. Sophie says: "The e-panel benefits young people because it shows them why having a voice is important and shows them how to use that voice."

Sophie is currently helping to promote the youth e-panel by attending events and by helping to produce a film to show young people how it works. The council is also making use of technology such as quick response (QR) codes, which allow young people to scan the codes at events directly on their smartphones and quickly sign up to the e-panel.

Sophie believes that the e-panel is the way to encourage lots of young people to give their views. "It has been good sitting on a youth panel, but not a lot of young people turn up for them," she says. "Some people are shy and some don't think that they should do it. The e-panel means that everyone can get involved - they can just do it online."

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