Young people make a difference

Published: 13 December 2018

Young people from Wandsworth have been making their voices heard at the recent Takeover Challenge and as members of the London Youth Assembly.

The Takeover Challenge is organised nationally  by the Children’s Commissioner for England and for the last seven years has been run locally by the Wandsworth Youth Council.  Takeover Challenge gives young people the chance to take over the jobs of senior decision makers for the day. They get to experience the working world and be involved in decision making processes.

Forty-three young people took over the jobs of 30 senior Wandsworth Council  officers, including the head of governance, the director and assistant director of children’s services, the head of communications, deputy head of finance for children’s services and public health leads, as well as the cabinet member for children’s services, Cllr Sarah McDermott.

They helped make decisions on designing contract specifications, spending capital funds, redesigning the THRIVE website, planning holiday programmes for youth centres, planning for the opening of a new care home and helping shape services for young people with special educational needs and disabilities. They also took control of the council’s twitter feed for the day.

Of the forty-three young people who took part, thirty-nine of said this was their first work experience opportunity.  Afterwards all the young people said they had learnt more about the working world and that the experience had given them the confidence to take part in work experience again.  One commented “I loved the day. I absolutely want to take part again and have the chance to take over my decision maker’s job again as it was so interesting! I learnt so much I never knew about before.”

Cllr McDermott said: “I always enjoy the Takeover Challenge because it’s fascinating and useful to get the fresh perspective offered by these young people. I was bowled over this year by how bright and engaged they were, and I hope they found the experience as positive as we all did.”

The Wandsworth Youth Council is made up of local young people who work to give the borough’s youth a voice in decision making. It liaises with councillors, council officers, the police and other groups about local services and issues that affect young people.

It also runs events, such as the Youth Voice Question time and the Takeover Challenge, and campaigns, including political awareness and mental health campaigns.

Recently the Wandsworth Youth Council signed up as members of the new London Youth Assembly, enabling Wandsworth’s young people to have a voice in London-wide matters. It meets at City Hall and brings together representatives from youth forums across the Capital to create positive change for young people. At their first meeting at the end of November members agreed their key priorities will be youth violence and safety and mental health and wellbeing. 

Luke St Clair from Southfields Academy was elected as Wandsworth’s London Youth Assembly member. The deputy member is Keaton Leigh from Fulham Boys School. Luke said:  “ Our first meeting was a great start to the project and it was inspiring to see all the young people from different youth councils in the same room, wanting to work together to change things. I look forward to what we can achieve.”

The Youth Council is run as part of the Wandsworth Youth Participation  Service, delivered by Participation People on behalf of Wandsworth Council.

Find out more at or follow @WBCYouthCouncil on twitter.