On Saturday 18th November 2023, Children in Wales celebrated Universal Children’s Day via our annual Young Wales Festival at Swansea University, Bay Campus. This year, some of the costs associated with the event were generously sponsored by Cactus Design Ltd and Techsol Group Ltd. The event offered young people the opportunity to engage with crucial decision makers, including the Minister for Social Justice, the Deputy Minister for Social Services and Senior Policy Managers for the Welsh Government.
As the day began, our attendees arrived and registered for the upcoming workshops and roundtables. On arrival, there were amazing performances by the young people of Anthem on stage in the Main Hall. This was also the main exhibition area, which was filled with stands from other organisations who offered fun activities and talking points.
To officially open the festival, Children in Wales’ CEO, Hugh Russell, welcomed the attendees and gave his opening speech. He was followed by our first speaker, Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan MS before our young volunteers gave a presentation on our latest project, the Children in Wales 30th Anniversary book: ‘Pause, Play, Fast Forward: The Journey of Children in Wales’.
The main event soon began with the first of the interactive workshops and roundtables taking place. These sessions allowed the children and young people who attended to have their voices heard by Ministers and other officials, giving them a chance to discuss the topics that were important to them.
The interactive workshops included topics such as Anxiety and Stress, Circus Skills, Drama, The National Museum Wales, Welsh Youth Parliament and Confidence and Skills Building. These workshops were repeated throughout the day to ensure every child and young person had a chance to get actively involved.
There were 6 roundtables available during the event, headed by a variety of key speakers. Many of the children and young people who attended fully engaged with the topics and ensured their opinions were heard. These sessions included:
Mental Health and Wellbeing - Millie Boswell, Senior Policy Manager for the Welsh Government, was the official for this roundtable, discussing mental health support in schools and the current waiting times for young people seeking professional support. The continuity and consistency of care was also considered.
Cost of Living - Jane Hutt MS, Minister for Social Justice, lead the roundtable on the Cost of Living. The young people who attended discussed how EDI relates to poverty, the support available for those with protected characteristics and how to address the rising cost of essential items and services. They also questioned how we can ensure young people live rather than survive during this crisis.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion - The third session of the day was with Julie Morgan MS, the Deputy Minister for Social Services. This covered questions such as how do we ensure all children and young people have access to all their rights? How do we create inclusive services and environments and how does Wales fulfil its commitment to being a nation of sanctuary?
Climate Change - Hugh Russell, CEO of Children in Wales, covered the Climate Change roundtable. He and the young people who attended discussed the impacts of climate change in Wales, how they are being addressed and how to transform the current transport infrastructure in response to the climate crisis. They also gave their opinion on how Wales can influence global policy to protect future generations.
Education - Alongside 3 Welsh Government education officials, the young people who attended this roundtable explored the impacts of poverty and the cost of living on education. They considered how we can enable all children and young people to reach their full potential and how we can create practitioners, services and environments that are nurturing and safe for all ages.
Children’s Rights and Participation - The final roundtable of the day was hosted by Rocio Cifuentes, Children’s Commissioner for Wales. A highly popular session, those who attended explored how we can raise awareness of children’s rights in Wales and how we can make the country more child friendly. They also considered youth participation in Wales and the young people’s measure.
There were several breaks throughout the day, providing guests with an opportunity to get refreshments, meet the organisations at their stalls and, of course, watch the talented young performers from Anthem. The event then closed with a riveting speech and thank you from the Chair of Children in Wales, Helen Mary Jones.
Overall, the Young Wales Festival 2023 offered an engaging day out in honour of Universal Children’s Day. It provided our young volunteers with a platform to share their achievements, get involved in interesting workshops and a chance to meet significant Welsh decision-makers to talk about the topics that matter to them. It also gave us a chance to celebrate the rights of children and young people and the work that has been done over Children in Wales’ 30-years of service.
Opening the festival
Welcome and speech from Hugh Russell, CEO at Children in Wales
Young Wales volunteer Arthur
Arthur gave a speech about his work on the Young Wales 30th anniversary book: Pause, Play, Fast-Forward: The Story of Children in Wales and children's rights.
Young people took part in a discussion with the Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan, they covered questions such as how do we ensure all children and young people have access to all their rights?
30th anniversary cake
Refreshments included this delicious cake
Circus skills workshop
Young people enjoyed learning new practical skills