Memorandum by Oxfordshire County Council
Please find enclosed Oxfordshire County Council's
submission to the Select Committee Inquiry on Citizen Participation
This year Children and Young People was chosen
by Oxfordshire County Council as the main theme for Local Democracy
Week 99. This sat extremely well with the programme that we have
been developing for the involvement and participation of young
people in community and civic life, which was agreed last October
by the Strategy and Resources Committee.
The initiatives outlined in our submission promise
to be exciting and will encourage young people to take an active
role in the democratic process in Oxfordshire, both now and in
If you require further information on the initiatives
outlined in our submission, please contact me.
Oxfordshire County Council is developing a programme
on democracy and citizenship issues for young people. This is
in response to the Government White Paper "Modern Local
GovernmentIn Touch with the People" and the recommendations
of the Advisory Group on Education for Citizenship and the
Teaching of Democracy in Schools (the Crick Report).
The County Council recognises that it is important
Inform young people about the democratic
process and citizenship.
Involve young people in active learning
through experimentation with democratic decision-making models.
Investigate why young people are
disaffected with the democratic process and work with them to
The programme outlined below is part of the
broader democracy agenda that the County Council is currently
developing under the Medium Term Plan 1999-2002.
The Website project has been established as
a joint initiative funded by the Youth Service and Corporate Services
(from the Communities in Partnership budget) and involves Save
the Children and Health Promotion in its Advisory Panel.
The development of a Website for young people
in Oxfordshire is key to widening the debate for young people
and opening up communication networks and mechanisms that already
exist at a local level, for example youth centres and youth forums.
The relevance and ownership of the site by young
people rests in the County Council not making assumptions about
young people's information needs and their views on, for example,
the use of the Internet. A first stage consultation carried out
during June and July 1999 at a small number of Youth Clubs around
the county (mainly The Net in Abingdon) indicated that young people
want the site to have clear and realistic objectives:
Open Channels for young people to
voice opinions and ideas and to be consulted as part of the democratic
process of decision making in Oxfordshire.
Encourage young people from across
the county to discuss issues and areas of concern.
Develop a Website for young people
in Oxfordshire aged 13-25 years enabling access to national and
local information that complements existing structures.
Act as a forum for youth councils,
youth centres and individuals around the county.
Link with other main information
sources, such as the County Council Website www.oxfordshire.gov.uk;
"The Site" www.youthnet.org.uk; the Youth Parliament
Link with citizenship programmes
being carried out by other agencies, such as the Oxford Development
Give access to a wide range of information
that young people regard as relevant to them.
Give young people a sense of ownership
of the site by involving them in its development and maintenance
through Steering Group membership.
Activities to date include the appointment of
the Website Development Co-ordinator and:
Wide support from County Councillors,
the Media and youth groups during Local Democracy Week 99 when
the project was launched.
Links established with local organisations
concerned with young people's issues.
The general information needs of
those young people using Oxfordshire Youth Centres have been established.
The level of use of IT amongst young
people for finding information has been indicated.
Local business is keen to be involved
in the sponsorship of the site.
As the project develops it is hoped that County
Council and Parish Councillors and Officers will be involved in
providing local input into the site and participating in activities
with young people.
LIVING & LEARNING
The Grant Scheme, administered by Oxfordshire
County Council, is available for imaginative projects that encourage
communities, young people and their local schools to work together
in partnership. Grants will be available from the end of October
1999 and will support approximately 10 applications per year for
grants of up to £1,500. The closing date for applications
will be 1 May 2000 and projects should be completed within one
year of receipt of the grant.
Aims and Objectives of the Grant Scheme are
Enable communities to create sustainable
links with their local schools.
Encourage young people to participate
in the decision making processes of the project and consider the
social and community impacts of those decisions.
Support joint school and community
initiatives that strengthen the local democratic processes in
Help local people develop new skills
and knowledge of their communities.
The schemes submitted must include participation
by a local elected representative (County, District, Town or Parish
The Annual County Award will be available for
the three most significant Living and Learning projects of each
grant year and will celebrate local initiatives that have brought
schools and communities closer together and strengthened local
Following the three successful school student
council conferences held in Oxford (Central), Witney (North),
Chiltern Edge (South), a countrywide conference has been organised
for 3 December at Kidlington Youth Centre.
The conference will explore with schools issues
surrounding, for example, getting elected, agenda setting and
the role of the school councillor, to produce guidelines for school
student councils. This will ensure the development of good practice
and support mechanisms necessary for the next steps in the development
of councils in Oxfordshire. Schools Councils will provide a clear
route for getting messages about citizenship and democracy into
schools in a positive way and making the understandable for young
The broad aims of the project are to establish
mechanism (primarily though not exclusively through the use of
Information Communication Technology) that:
Increase access to local information.
Strengthen the links between councils
and local people.
Involve and respond to local people
and local interests.
Catch and retain local people's interest
and ensure local accountability.
By exploring some of the mechanisms currently
in existence in Oxfordshire such as Community Websites, printed
information eg directories, links with existing community networks
and local democratic processes and multiple use of existing IT
Progress to date:
Audit (completed May 1999) to establish
a database of community-run Websites in Oxfordshire.
Audit (completed July 1999) to identify
the following communities for Phase One of CiTBlackbird
Leys, Charlbury, East Hendred, Deddington, Grimsbury, Bicester,
Kidlington, East Oxford, Barton IT Hub.
Promotion of CiT to over 1,000 community
organisations and networks underway.
Joint working established with Lifelong
Learning initiatives to co-ordinate resources and share good practice.
It is hoped that local Councillors will participate
in the project as it develops and that the networks will be extended
to include developments such as the Oxfordshire Youth Website
and related links.
For more information on these initiatives contact
Gwen Davies 01865 810109.