The Youth Combined Authority is a group of young people who have the role of advising on and scrutinising the work of the mayor and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority on key issues and concerns of young people in the community.
Greater Manchester Youth Combined Authority (YCA) takes place in Greater Manchester in the North West of England. It was created in February 2018 and was the first of its kind in the country. The YCA is a group of young people who have the role of advising on and scrutinising the work of the mayor and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) on key issues and concerns of young people in the community.
The YCA is part of the Equalities, Inclusion and Cohesion portfolio of the GMCA. It was setup and funded by the GMCA as part of its efforts to tackle discrimination and disadvantage in the area and to promote inclusion. The youth organisation, Youth Focus North West is commissioned to support the project. The YCA sits across two GMCA Portfolios, Young People and Equalities, Inclusion and Cohesion. The Portfolio Leads, currently Councillor Eamonn O’ Brien, Bury Metropolitan Borough Council, and Councillor Arooj Shah, Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council, oversee the initiative.
The YCA aims to advise, support, and challenge GMCA political leaders and policy makers, to ensure that key issues and concerns of young people are taken into account in policy making. This helps ensure that policies and services for young people can be better tailored to young people themselves, making for better, more effective policies.
Engagement of young people
Young people who are members of the YCA represent Youth Councils and youth organisations from across the city. The 42 members are nominated by 10 Greater Manchester Youth Councils and 11 youth organisations. Each body nominates two representatives, who sit on the YCA for a period of two years. YCA Members come from a range of genders, ethnicities, as well as disabled young people. They range from 11-18 years (or up to 25 for those with additional needs). The YCA also has ad-hoc working groups to focus on specific topics. Opportunities to participate in these are posted on the YCA website and any young people can apply to take part.
Staff supporting the project identify that the young people involved are motivated by the opportunity to make tangible changes in their community. They can see how their inputs have a direct impact on policies and programmes that affect them. The young people also benefit from developing their skills, including communication and presentation skills, which they exercise in the meetings with policymakers. In addition, the YCA gives them a chance to connect with other young people who they might not have the chance to meet, and a sense of belonging to the larger community.
YCA members meet on a monthly basis. Policy makers attend the meetings to present their policies and get inputs from the group on their work. YCA members provide both verbal and written feedback on the policies presented.
It is common for policy makers to work on an extended basis with the YCA. An example of this was involvement in developing Our Pass, a public transport scheme to provide free bus travel across Greater Manchester for 16–18-year-olds. The Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, and Transport for Greater Manchester approached the YCA to support the scheme’s development. Over several months, the YCA worked to design the scope and parameters for the card, how it was going to be disseminated, which groups of young people should access it, as well as choosing the name and branding. As a result of YCA’s input, it is hoped Our Pass will be better taken up by the young people it targets and will more effectively address their needs.
YCA meetings are facilitated and supported by youth workers from Youth Focus North West, who place a strong emphasis on fostering and maintaining good relationships between everyone involved in the project. The staff involved identify the importance of the voluntary participation of young people, informal learning, young people being treated as equals, and having fun as key factors within the project.
YCA is the dedicated body established within the GMCA for consulting young people on policy. This institutionalisation makes it attractive for policy makers to engage with. The YCA offers a regular space for policy makers to gain a youth perspective on their initiatives, with young people who have experience in giving policy-oriented, solution-driven feedback. A ready-made, formal body, with a clear mandate and tasks, and regularised meeting times can encourage policy makers to integrate youth voice more into their policy making process. This institutionalised form helps ensure sustainability, as well as having the ability to improve as time goes on, learning from its own best practices.
One challenge faced by the YCA is establishing two-way dialogue with policy makers. In some cases, policy representatives attending meetings focus on presenting their proposals to young people, without a strong intention to listen to what YCA members have to say in response. Staff involved in the project identify that it takes time to build trust between the young people and the policy makers, so that they can engage in open and honest dialogue.
One strength of the YCA is the integrated support for young people, through the practice of youth work. The staff involved can effectively support the young people to undertake the roles, improving the quality of their engagement with policy makers. However, the project itself is not limited to focusing on youth work policy or youth services. Instead, it can work across all of policy areas covered by the GMCA.
The success of the YCA can be seen by the active participation of young people from a diverse array of backgrounds, and from the high interest from policy makers to integrate YCA into their policy making.
- Local authority: Greater Manchester Combined Authority
- Type of local authority: Combined authority, made up of made up of the ten Greater Manchester councils and mayor.
- Political control: Labour (as of March 2022).
- Target group: 11-18 years-old (or up to 25 years for those with additional needs) from a diverse range of identities and backgrounds
- Area of policy making: Wide ranging - including transportation, policing, employment and skills, health and the environment.
- Further details: GMCA – Youth Combined Authority webpage.
Contact: Stuart Dunne, Chief Executive Officer, Youth Focus North West, S.Dunne@youthfocusnw.org.uk.