THE next generation debated the issues of the day and chose the hottest topic affecting their communities as they gathered to discover democracy in action.
Teenagers from across Sunderland met in the council chamber of its council offices to take part in the seventh annual Young People’s State of the City Debate.
Delegates were invited from every school and youth club across the area to take part in the debate, with issues on the agenda decided by them.
The programme for the annual event was organised by Sunderland’s Youth Parliament, with the support of the council’s Youth Development Group, and was based around issues raised by young people through regular consultation at events, schools and youth groups throughout the year.
This year the debate centred on five themes, health, antisocial behaviour, discrimination, students rights and sexual health, and keynote speakers gave talks on the issues before taking questions.
After debate on each, delegates voted on which issue they would like the Sunderland Youth Parliament to focus on in the year ahead, with antisocial behaviour selected by the group.
Portfolio holder for children’s services, Councillor Pat Smith said: “Young people have a vital role to play in our city’s future, and we should all be proud to host this unique annual event which they drive forward and organise themselves.
“The views and opinions expressed in the debate helps us to shape how we can all deliver even better services to meet their needs and address their concerns wherever we can.
“This annual event is now in its seventh year, and its continuing success and popularity demonstrates our young people’s commitment to getting involved in the life of our city and the decision making process.”
Acting chairman of Sunderland Youth Parliament, Daniel Alcock, 16, from Hetton who is a pupil at Grindon Hall School, added: “Sunderland Youth Parliament has become a major part of my life over the last two years. It is one of the few chances young people get to speak up on matters which concern them and have the chance to bring change to make Sunderland a better place for us all to live.
“One of the highlights of working with the youth parliament is helping to organise the Young People’s State Of State Debate.
“It helps young people from across our city to have their opinions heard and decide on what they believe Sunderland Youth Parliament should work towards over the coming year.”