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Andover young people visit parliament

Streets Project Andover - with Lord Stoneham
Streets Project Andover - with Lord Stoneham

Five young people from Andover visited the Houses of Parliament to inform members of the House of Commons and House of Lords about the challenges they face.

Members of the Streets Project aged 16-24 had informative meetings on Monday this week with Lord Stoneham of Droxford and MP Kit Malthouse to explain the difficulties and frustrations of being a young person in Andover.

Questions tabled included:

  • Why are we expected to work and pay tax at 16, but without the ability to vote until 18?
  • Why are we expected to stay in education when there’s no funding?
  • Why are wages so low for young people when we can be doing the same jobs are adults

Lord Stoneham of Droxford showed practical sympathy on the subject of low wages for young people saying, “Employers will be wary because they won’t be sure if young people have the relevant experiences or disciplines.

“If you don’t offer some incentive to the employer, they will simply employ the adult.

“If everyone had the same rate of pay, we’d find less young people employed”.

Lord Stoneham visited Andover earlier this year on a fact-finding mission which was arranged by local businessman David Coole from JPD Property Services. The Liberal Democrat Chief Whip came to investigate the lack of youth services in Andover following closure of youth facility ‘The Junction’.

Young people who attended Parliament were Thomas Hurring (24), Ryan Howarth (20), Harry Bryant (16), Sophie Stanley (24) and Ethan Saupe (16). All are members of the Streets Project which is run and managed by Love Andover.

The Streets Project was started in 2015 to help young people in a peer education environment – to give them a sense of belonging, offer real qualifications (such as First Aid and Suicide Prevention) as well as providing drug, alcohol, sexual and mental health awareness and support.

Alex Leigh, a former member of the Streets Project won the coveted Pride of Andover Sue Sheppard Award in October this year for winning his battle to overcome drug dependency and homelessness. Alex is now a regular and positive role model to others within the group.

MP Kit Malthouse: Streets Project 2017
MP Kit Malthouse: Streets Project 2017

A subsequent meeting with Kit Malthouse proved useful as he enquired about the development of the Streets Project and offered his support in finding funding for the group. He said, “It was a pleasure to see my good friend Mo Sweeney from Andover Radio and a group of young people from the constituency after their tour of these marvellous buildings.

“We discussed funding for youth services in Andover and I offered my support for their upcoming bids.”

With a wry smile on his face, 24-year old Tom Hurring said of the day, “It was really useful and fascinating, especially in the House of Lords… seeing peers playing on their phones while there were important matters to be discussed”.

Lord Stoneham who has offered his help with the growth of the Streets Project added, “I am sure [Kit Malthouse] would love to hear the further views of young people in Andover and will spend time to understand the difficulties you’re facing.  If you want to have an influence, then you have to work through the people who are your elected representatives.”

The Streets Project visited London with assistance from Cathy Sherlock from the Army Welfare Service and the group is hoping to arrange a further meeting with Mr Malthouse.

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About the author

David Harber

David Harber is the founder and Managing Director of Love Andover.

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