Knife crime, mental health and homelessness were among the issues tackled in a lively House of Commons debate involving Youth Parliament members from West Sussex.
Putting their skills to the ultimate test, Oliver Faragher for East Arun, Adur and Worthing, Erin Masterson for Horsham and Mid Sussex, Farah Khan for Crawley and East Grinstead, and Harley Collins for Chichester and West Arun, helped debate five issues chosen in a huge Make Your Mark ballot by young people from across the UK earlier this year.
Chaired by the speaker of the house, John Bercow MP, the annual event was part of UK Parliament Week and all the Youth Parliament members involved voted to decide which two issues would become their priority campaigns for next year.
Erin said: “Going to the House of Commons was so surreal. I had seen it all on TV before, so to actually be there, sitting on the green seats was very bizarre.
“The speeches were all amazing and although I didn’t get to speak myself, I still got so much from the experience. It was extremely inspiring and eye opening. Now I feel as if I can do anything I set my mind to.”
Put an end to knife crime and votes at 16 were the chosen campaigns for UK Youth Parliament members to tackle in 2019.
The other issues debated were mental health, equal pay equal work and tackling homelessness.
Paul Marshall, West Sussex County Council cabinet member for children and young people, said: “It is wonderful that young people from this county were at the heart of this debate and represented their peers so well in a hugely-successful day.”
In one of the largest youth consultations of its kind in UK history, this year’s Make Your Mark campaign saw 1,106,788 young people take part, with one in five of all 11 to 18-year-olds voting.
In West Sussex, a record 21,206 young people voted in the ballot, eclipsing last year’s by more than 6,000.
West Sussex has four Youth Parliament members and four deputy members representing each area of the county, following elections in March 2018.