Meet the Finalists: Participation and Youth Voice

Castlemilk Youth Complex Board of Directors

As Scotland’s largest independent youth organisation, led by young people, Castlemilk Youth Complex (CYC) is a true giant of youth participation and voice.  

Governed entirely by young people aged 16-to-25, armed with sole voting rights, this project is an outstanding example of participatory decision-making. The youth-led board makes decisions for the youth complex. They give a voice and represent the young people who don’t have a voice, advocating for young people’s rights. These young people are the ones who design the many programmes and services.  

Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, they proudly hold the title of Europe’s largest youth arts agency. At its core lies a fundamental commitment to amplifying the voices of Castlemilk’s young people.  

Through a diverse array of programmes and services, CYC’s impact echoes throughout greater Castlemilk. From The Hub’s drop-in activities to Streetwise’s outreach initiatives, the organisation touches every corner of the community. 

The Schools Team operates within local secondary schools, offering support ranging from home links to employability training. Meanwhile, the Youth Stress Team delivers essential resilience workshops and stress management services across 36 primary schools, addressing mental health needs from an early age. 

For Ellie, CYC symbolises support and opportunity: “The youth complex is my home away from home. I found out who I am as an individual and explored avenues that I was told were out with my reach by teachers but youth workers have shown me that anything is achievable.” 

As CYC moves forward, its youth-led approach is a prime example of successful youth work. By working together and speaking up, CYC helps young people achieve their goals and be heard. In Castlemilk, young people are the leaders. Many organisations have visited them to learn from the youth board and take ideas back to their own country, city or community. Their influence reaches far and wide, inspiring others to empower young people everywhere. 

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East Ayrshire Children and Young People’s Cabinet, East Ayrshire Council

What truly sets the Youth Cabinet apart is their unwavering dedication to amplifying the voices of young people in East Ayrshire. Unlike typical youth groups, they’re not just a platform for discussion—they’re a force for action and change. 

What makes the East Ayrshire Children and Young People’s Youth Cabinet so special is they are not just a forum for discussion, this band of young people are a force for action and change.  

Their proactive approach to advocacy is remarkable. Rather than simply highlighting issues, they actively engage with local organisations, health services, and decision-makers to push for real solutions. From organising equalities conferences to colourful community events, they create inclusive spaces where every young person feels heard and valued. 

The Youth Cabinet sets an example for all young people in East Ayrshire by actively participating in important meetings. They meet regularly with the head of finance to ensure young people have a say in how budget spending is used for youth work. They also collaborate with the Health and Social Care Partnership and contribute to the Children and Young People’s Service Plan.  

Additionally, they meet with the full Council and the Community Planning Partnership Board twice a year. One member even chairs the Local Licensing Forum, a first in Scotland, and works with the Scottish First Minister on the National Licensing Board. The Cabinet operates independently with its own constitution and bank account, managing their engagements efficiently. 

As a Youth Cabinet their impact extends beyond the local community. Through their involvement in national initiatives and regular meetings with government, they’ve spearheaded campaigns on critical issues like period poverty, leading to meaningful policy changes at both local and national levels. 

But perhaps what truly makes them stand out is their leadership. From chairing local forums to representing East Ayrshire on national platforms, they’re paving the way for a new generation of changemakers.  

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Young Carers Voice, Dundee Carers Centre

What sets Young Carers Voice (YCV) apart is their dedication to making sure young carers in Dundee have the power put back in their hands.  

For many young people a combination of caregiving responsibilities, social isolation, stigma, educational barriers, and emotional strain can contribute to feelings of disempowerment.  

Young Carers Voice is entirely driven by young carers aged 14-to-18, giving them the platform to advocate for themselves and their peers. Their initiatives, decisions, and actions are all youth-led, ensuring that the voices of young carers are to the forefront. 

These young people, supported by youth workers, bring about tangible change. From refreshing school policies to organising Young Carers Roadshows, their efforts have resulted in increased support and recognition for young carers across Dundee. 

In addition, the project provides comprehensive support to young carers, offering training, accreditation, and awards to recognise their invaluable contributions. They ensure that young carers are equipped with the skills and knowledge to cope better.  

YCV isn’t just a support group; it’s a safe space where young carers can express themselves freely, talk about their worries, and seek guidance without fear of judgment. Through shared experiences and mutual support, they create a sense of belonging and camaraderie among young carers, making them feel valued, heard, and understood. 

As one young person explained: “The staff will always take each issue seriously, and I’ve never felt anxious talking to them. The group has done a whole load of good, from spreading awareness, to fighting for our rights, I am honoured to be a part of that.”  

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