If it wasn't for Youth Opinions I would probably in prison or something similar.

One of the areas of youth work that we are most proud of is our award winning youth voice project - called Youth Opinions.

It focuses on giving young people a say in the day to day running of Youth Moves, and a more prominent role on decision making in the local community.

What started out as a small local project has gone from strength to strength and is now seen as one of the leading projects of its kind across the region. This year we celebrate it's 15th year anniversary.

Youth Opinions at the Bristol Young Heroes Awards in 2022

Some of the key successes include winning Team of the year at the Bristol Young Heroes awards the first group of young people to win, an accolade previously only reserved for adult youth workers; to administrating grants to other young people and projects across the city; and offering advice and advocacy to youth projects on community safety and knife crime across the country.

At present we are currently doing six monthly monitoring visits to both our in house Youth Moves programmes and other agency projects, to quality assure that it meets sector standards. And are very proud to announce that the young people themselves recently secured a second year of grant funding to administer to youth projects, a clear recognition of the success of the first year.

Youth Opinions has also been a spring board for several young people who on becoming members of the project, have eventually gone onto voluntary and paid staff roles at Youth Moves.

Having that pathway is central to our work and the bedrock to all we do.

It's fair to say Youth Opinions has come a long way.

The Youth Opinions group at an event in London with Penny Mallory, a TV presenter and British rally champion.

Hear from the some of the key people involved in its founding, and those that have benefitted from this groundbreaking scheme below.

Den Clifford - Founder and Head of Youth Work 

Den (centre) with Stacy-Marie Phillips and Lizzie Coyne, who along with Jay Coyne, was one of the original members who helped set it up Youth Opinions with Den

"It started when Youth Moves wasn't really doing much delivery, around 15 years ago.

There was an issue around what quality of youth work was happening in Knowle at the time. So we set up a youth voice group. Specifically to go out and monitor the quality of youth work and then to come back to say to the board what they thought was happening in the area, what the quality was and what needed to happen. 

At that time there were not many other youth organisations doing that in Bristol, they were doing a type of consultative work with younger ages, but there was no real youth voice or meaningful say for them at all. 

I vividly recall when we started up and we said, we're gonna set for Youth Voice group. And we had so many agencies going, 'no but people have tried that before and it won't work in this area. People here don't wanna do it. It will never work.' Now look at us.

I previously worked for the city council focusing on youth participation, so I was convinced it would work and there was no real reason why it wouldn't work here."

Jamie-lee  - A former Youth Opinions member now professional community worker 

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth with Tilly, Ashley Burnett, Jenny Poole and Levi Hodge. Three of these young people eventually went on to win overall young hero of the year at the Bristol Young Heroes Awards. 

"15 years ago Youth opinions was the light that shone on my love of youth work, the beginning of what I knew I wanted to do moving forward. Supporting young people to make informed decisions and positive change was my aspiration and youth opinions gave me multiple opportunities to build experiences that I potentially may not have had otherwise.

I have some fantastic memories and have build great friendships and networks that have allowed me to establish myself as a professional today. This encouraged me to complete my degree and adventure out to see different parts of the country to have an impact and discuss issues that affected me as well as others my age.

Youth opinions will always have a space in my heart, and I wish it all the luck moving forward!"

Clive Harry - former head teacher and trustee at Youth Moves

Clive receiving a Queens Honour in 2022 for services to young people and South Bristol

"Young people have limited knowledge and experience.

The cognitive functions of the human brain are not fully developed until early adulthood.

For these reasons the journey to independence has to be with the measured guidance of adults.

However, the evidence is overwhelming, for example from history, emergencies, environmental activism, young carers and other cultures,  that the potential of even the very young is massively greater than the general expectation in our society.

The concept of Youth Opinions is to provide the opportunities and the guidance, for young people to explore that potential. In doing so we, and they, discover how effectively they can contribute to shaping our world.

I have long believed that, in schools especially, the students themselves hold the possibilty of the most exciting, underutilised and stifled innovation. It is also the case that the school curriculum should be designed explicitly, in every aspect, from the earliest stage, to foster independence and confidence.

Youth Moves models this approach. Over twenty years, the members have embraced the challenges and brought the influence of young people to bear with impact on real issues. Of course, there have been mistakes, which is in the nature of learning. Overall, Youth Opinions has challenged, revised and consistently  exceeded expectations.

The exploration continues."

Levi Hodge - former member of Youth Opinions, and now full time youth worker at Youth Moves 

Levi and Jenny from Youth Opinions hosting a visit from Prince Richard, The Duke of Gloucester

"I started off as a young person doing Youth Opinions when I was 13 and now I'm obviously running the group with Den.

My experience was a really good one. I think it opened my eyes a lot. I was one of the hard to reach ones out on the streets, and I think that's where there saw that talent in me and actually said, 'well you've got a lot to say, why don't you use it in a positive way?'

So I'd end up going to community meetings actually. And I can remember being at an anti-social behaviour meeting about young people, and the older residents were moaning about stuff.

So I stood up and said, well 'why don't you ask us what we want? 'It got me thinking that we should speak to the young people to see what they think, instead of always speaking on behalf of them. Rather than a load of older people, some in their 80s, trying to tell us what they want.

So to be honest, when I really think about it, if it wasn't for Youth Opinions I would probably in prison or something similar."

To find out more about Youth Opinions and if you or someone you know is interested then get in contact with us on [email protected] or drop us a line on 0117 363 4969.