A show of strength from dale teenagers helped to persuade a packed room of adults that their needs should be a priority when votes were cast to decide the most important issues in the dale.
The teens - mainly members of Teesdale Community Resources (TCR THE HUB) - turned out en masse to the Teesdale Action Partnership (TAP) meeting last month. The event was held to seek residents' views on what TAP's budget for 2011/2012 should be spent on. It was the second time TAP, which was set up by Durham County Council, had set priorities - but it was the first time young people had cast their votes alongside older members of the community. Children and young people came out top in the voting as the most important priority, followed by tourism and job prospects.
Keith ‘Joe' Jones, head of TCR, said: "In prioritising children and young people, TAP have clearly demonstrated that dialog with teenagers can enable their direct involvement in decision-making, putting them on an equal footing with the rest of the community. It is a fact that together with older people, young people are consistently affected by rural social exclusion. What we witnessed on that Wednesday night was ‘true community' collectively stating their hopes and aspirations with a common goal, to make Teesdale a better place to live, work, learn and play."
TAP was set up to give Teesdale people a stronger say in the area's future, following the demise of the former district council. The is the first time children and young people have topped the poll of priorities. In the first round of budget allocation, when the TAP was formed last year, older people's services was seen as the most important issue in Teesdale, with environment and street scene coming second and access to broadband third. At the time, TAP was the only area action partnership in the country not to have children and young people as one of its priorities. After some controversy over the decision, the need to focus on younger members of the dale was eventually added as another priority.
Along with the members of TCR, last month's event also saw young actors from the Turrets Youth Theatre performing a piece about the similarities between young and old people living in the dale. Mr Jones said: "The Turrets Youth Theatre demonstrated quite clearly that often it is the misrepresentation of youth that causes intergenerational friction, but as the piece went on, it was clear that we do indeed need young people, like the song says, ‘I believe the children are our future' - and especially now in rural Teesdale, this has never been more true."