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26 November 2019

Rosemary Watt-Wyness, our Chief Executive, spoke at our London Youth Awards 2019 on 14th November at City Hall. You can find her speech below.


Rosemary’s speech

Thank you. It’s a real pleasure to welcome you this evening to our fantastic London Youth Awards. We are here tonight and holding these awards because we want to celebrate. We want to celebrate the outstanding effort, the creativity and the dedication that are on display in your organisations on so many evenings and so many weekends right across our city.

It feels really fitting to be holding these awards at City Hall and I’d like to thank Siân Berry AM and her team for asking us here. Because I think people are beginning to recognise that we should all be putting support for young people right at the heart of our city’s life.

Young Londoners are facing several significant challenges. 700,000 children and young people are growing up in poverty in our city. 700,000. Young Londoners have worse physical and mental wellbeing than other young people. The unemployment rate is higher – twice as high for black young people than for white young people. That’s a major challenge for our city.

Sometimes I hear people talking as if young people themselves are the problem. I hear we need projects to raise young people’s aspirations. But the young people I meet are full of aspiration. When we spoke with our youth advisory group Dare about what mattered to them. Their number 1 issue was the environment they are growing up in. And actually they weren’t talking about climate – they were talking about the economic and social environment for them. They were talking about advantage and disadvantage. They were talking about opportunity. So let’s not talk about whether Young people have enough aspiration – the question is are we meeting them with opportunity?

And every one of you is here tonight because you are part of a real community effort to create opportunity for young Londoners. You are supporting the transformative relationships that youth work can build and the safe spaces where young people can flourish. Whether you are a youth worker, a funder or a volunteer you are creating opportunity.
The US president FDR said that we can’t prepare the future for our young people, but we can prepare our young people for the future. Well I think he was half right. I think we have a duty to prepare young people for the future and that’s what youth work does and we have a duty to prepare a better future for our young people.

That’s what London Youth is trying to do. Championing youth work is what London Youth is all about. Together with you we are making some headway. The political parties are beginning to make commitments to young people and the Greater London Authority has put some much needed investment into young Londoners. But there is so much more to do. And a long way to go before those promises become practice. So we are going to keep championing young Londoners. We are going to keep championing youth work. We are going to keep championing you.

We had a massive response for tonight’s awards and our youth panel and sector expert panel had a huge challenge in deciding the winners. Thank you for being part of this and I’m delighted to introduce you to London Youth President, Sir Ken Olisa. Sir Ken is the Lord Lieutenant of Greater London and will be presenting the inaugural Prince Phillip Award which was kindly donated by our Patron, the Duke of Edinburgh. Sir Ken!


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