The end of November saw the tenth anniversary of the #iwill Movement, with a number of events taking place in Ipswich.

#iwill week is an annual celebration of the work young people, their ambassadors, champions, and partners are leading in our town and across the UK.

To mark the occasion, Ipswich Borough Council became one of the first local authorities in the country to sign up to the Power of Youth Charter, joining 24 other organisations in the town.

Signing the Power of Youth charter is more than a token gesture. By making this commitment, organisations like Ipswich Borough Council must now take meaningful action to empower more children and young people to be active citizens.

They now must:

  • Prioritise supporting young people to take social action
  • Open up decision making structures
  • Work collaboratively with other organisations
  • Evidence the benefits of youth social action
  • Recognise and celebrate young people's impact

Simply put, decisions affecting young people can’t keep being made about young people without young people.

The signing of the Charter took place at an event hosted by Youth Switching On Ipswich, a project created by young people, for young people, and is supported locally by the Ipswich Social Mobility Alliance, and backed by the UK-wide #iwill Movement and Volunteering Matters.

I joined nearly 100 other people there, and there was so much energy and inspiration to be found.

There was also a strong will to strengthen the bonds between generations.

Research shows that there is a growing disconnect, and we need to change this, not embed it further.

We know that if there is greater awareness of young people taking part in social action, it will form more positive attitudes between people and communities.

Ipswich Star: Isabella introducing Jack AbbottIsabella introducing Jack Abbott (Image: Supplied)

A few days before this event, I was also invited to ‘Making Space’, an open forum for young people to get involved in a variety of activities and to share their ideas.

Run by the Thomas Wolsey 550 and Community Hub Ipswich (CHIp), the forum is designed to celebrate youth-led projects and to share their inspiration for places where young people can spend time together in Ipswich.

It was a real pleasure to be able to talk about my experiences growing up in Suffolk and my initial beginnings in politics, but more crucially, to discuss the challenges young people were raising with me, and to learn about how they feel they can best be resolved.

Some of the issues facing young people today are enormous, and the testimonies I heard that evening were often deeply personal.

Whether it is mental health support, special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision, or many other public services, so much of the infrastructure and safeguards that should be there for children and young people are simply not working.

Despite all this, young people in the room remained hopeful, engaged and determined to help find the solutions.

They love Ipswich, want the town to succeed, and don’t want to have to move away to find better opportunities elsewhere.

Establishing and developing more spaces where young people can meet is an important start, and we must continue to amplify their voices, shine a spotlight on their work and speak much more encouragingly about the impact they are having on our town.

Better still, engaging and empowering young people so they can have a greater role to play in decision-making will have a transformational effect, for both them, and for Ipswich as a whole.

The future is brighter because of the young people who are desperate to make a positive, lasting change in Ipswich.

If we give them better tools and a decent platform, we’ll all be better for it.