I know that 8am is rather early to get up on a Saturday morning, but the excitement of attending another regional meeting with the Welsh Youth Parliament gave me the energy to manage it (and it was important not to be late!).
It was great to see the other dedicated members of the Youth Parliament as well as the lovely staff once again, and we had a great time, being divided into groups to start the day playing a game to wake us up.
After arriving and explaining the course of the day we split up into teams of 6. Once we were in our teams we received a ball of scrunched up paper which we then had to use our hands to bounce it in the air. We weren't very successful!
But somehow I was selected to go to the finals which consisted of me, Gwion, and Carys. Go! We started bouncing the ball, up and down up and down soon Gwion was out it was me and Carys, I had a bad bounce and the paper ball went flying across the room with me in quick pursuit.
The winner of the paper olympics was Carys!
We then went into our committees of choice, based on the vote in parliament during the residential meeting in February, such as the committee on mental and emotional health support, the committee on litter and plastic waste and the committee to discuss life skills in the curriculum.
We looked at the main topics of our respective committees, and considered the work the Assembly has already undertaken in these areas, and we reported our findings to the other groups.
I am a member of the mental and emotional health support committee, and as members we were delighted to hear that the Government had recently spent an additional seven million pounds on mental and emotional health support. Yes, seven million pounds, that’s great isn’t it!
We agreed, however, that it is very important that we see the effect of this investment, not only on Wales, but also on the young people of Wales.
I decided to be in the group that is tackling plastic waste. Once we had split in to our groups our first task was to list all the things we could do to reduce plastic waste. Some of our examples were starting in schools were to reduce the amount of plastic bottles and straws used and then we could later move this in to public buildings and offices. On the subject of schools we could ensure that all schools have water fountains in order to reduce plastic waste. There are some that count the amount of plastic bottles saved! In addition we noted that the recycling collection system should be simplified to putting bags which is time consuming and reduces the appeal of recycling.
We noted many other ideas including a country wide scheme to start recycling competition between schools with a reward of some sort. But as I don't want to bore you to death i will move on to the next task we did.
Next, out of all the points on the list we picked our three main points which were ‘Single use plastics’, ‘Public encouragement’ and Schooling and education’. Single use plastics is about reducing single use plastics, Public encouragement is about adding water fountains to city centres, more incentives for collecting recycling, prizes/rewards? Finally schooling and education means increasing recycling in schools, a second hand uniform scheme (so when you outgrow a item of school uniform you hand it in to the school and they can sell it cheaply and help reduce the amount of school uniform that is thrown away). Lastly it also covers the idea of giving pupils free reusable water bottles.
After a delicious lunch, it was time to discuss the Children Bill (Abolition of reasonable punishment), broadly speaking, to abolish the common law defence of reasonable punishment so it is no longer available in Wales to parents or those acting in loco parentis as a defence to assault or battery against a child.
We looked at children's rights as well as the effect of using corporal punishment, and we also compared this approach with other forms of punishment. It was very interesting to hear the views of other WYP members who were divided on the issue, and a vote was then held so that the Assembly and the Welsh Government had the representation of the young people of Wales.
We then had another group discussion, again in our committees, to consider what we need to investigate to make positive changes in terms of our topic on a national scale. We chose four questions to investigate, and looked at how we can gather information to understand exactly what mental health concerns young people in Wales have. It is clear from this and from the discussion we had before the end of the meeting that we had clear plans to make direct contact with you, the young people of Wales.
Personally, I am very excited to meet and hear the views of as many young people in Wales as possible. So, we will now look forward to the next regional meeting!