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Breaking Barriers - Funky Dragon Conference and AGM

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Jane Davidson, Minister for Education & Lifelong Learning
The Annual Conference and AGM of FUNKY DRAGON, the Children and Young People’s Assembly for Wales took place in the Assembly Chamber and Conference rooms in Cardiff Bay on Friday 27th June.

The purpose of the conference was to promote dialogue between the young people on the Funky Dragon Council and the Assembly Government on issues that most concern children and young people in Wales.

The AGM programme provided an opportunity for the Council and members of Funky Dragon to meet with a number of Assembly Government Ministers. As part of the programme delegates were informed of the Assembly Government's approach to their priority issues and the opportunities that exist for joint work around priority areas.  

In the morning sessions took place for children and young people to discuss priority issues on a range of topics that would the help them shape their agenda for the coming year.  The Minister for Environment, Planning and Countryside, the Minister for Economic Development and Transport and myself joined these workshops to discuss the issues and answer questions.   The main themes of the workshops were:
 Rural and Environmental issues
 Employment and Economic Development
 Education and Bullying
 Leisure and Sporting Opportunities

The formal AGM took place after lunch in the Assembly Chamber during which there was feedback from the morning’s discussions and the elections for special interest; co-options and management committee.  The day closed with an evaluation of the days events.  Funky Dragon have since held a Grand Council meeting to draw up their annual work programme, based on the AGM workshop discussions.

As you are all aware, involving children and young people in decision-making is rapidly becoming a central part of our work.  Important though it is, Funky Dragon is only one part of our arrangements for getting young people involved, which include local Forums in every local authority and school councils in all primary and secondary schools in Wales.

We need to achieve participation that is not tokenistic, that delivers results and motivates, avoiding disillusionment with the process. It will take time to achieve full representation and impact.  It is particularly important that we involve the less confident and marginalised, those who have difficulty in articulating their views or whose views are difficult to obtain.

This will be a major challenge for all of us nationally and locally. We need to adapt and build on the ways we have run our planning and consultations and will also need to learn new skills and methods in doing so.

Funky Dragon’s Annual Conference and AGM are an important part of this, and made it possible for children and young people to discuss the issues they felt were important directly with Ministers and Assembly officials. This marks a further step to making sure that the children and young people of Wales are brought into the heart of our decision making in the Government of Wales.

I was really impressed at the way in which delegates approached the workshops.  Their enthusiasm, ideas and their clear commitment to wanting to influence and contribute towards developing the policies that affect them was infectious.   I know that I speak not only for myself but also for my Cabinet colleagues who took part in the workshops when I say that I really got a great deal out of these sessions.  For this to work the challenge for us all will be in demonstrating through our actions that we are listening to and taking account of the views of the children and young people in Wales.