Mental health support, overuse of screen time and too much schoolwork were among the main issues raised on behalf of the young people of Wales in a special meeting of the Welsh Youth Parliament with the First Minister.
The virtual session, chaired by the Llywydd of the National Assembly for Wales, Elin Jones AM, was also attended by the Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams AM, and was an opportunity for members to share concerns directly with the Welsh Government.
A wide range of issues were covered across the meeting including how many hours young people should be spending on schoolwork each week, anxiety over cancelled exams, financial support for students heading to university and what prospects would there be for young people looking for work during a recession.
The First Minister and Minister for Education talked about protecting mental health services as much as possible, standardising what schools offered across Wales so everyone knew what was expected of them, and how some plans for the Welsh economy may need to be modified to support younger people more.
Regarding a question about the amount of time young people should be spending on screens, when so much of their schoolwork and social life was now done virtually, the Minister for Education said people should take some personal responsibility over what they thought was right, but that exercise outdoors was important for both mind and body.
Summing up the session, Newport East’s Charley Oliver-Holland said:
“I’ve had a lot of young people say they are unsure of what the Welsh Government is actually doing, but from this conversation it seems like they are actually doing quite a lot.
“I just wanted to say thank you on behalf of all the young people, especially in my area, who have been really down about what is actually being done.
“There is a lot being done, we are being listened to, especially to have this meeting means that we are being listened to, so thank you.”
Llywydd of the National Assembly for Wales, Elin Jones AM, said:
"We are living through an unprecedented time in our history. This crisis is having an impact on all of us, of all generations, and that’s why it is so important that young people’s voices are heard during this time, to understand the thoughts and concerns of people across the country.
“The Senedd was one of the first in the world to meet virtually three or four weeks ago, now we are talked about throughout the world in many parliaments as a leading light in continuing our scrutiny virtually.
“Now we are breaking new ground again as our youth parliament meets formally, virtually, as well in these extraordinary times.”
In his closing comments the First Minister said:
“We are living in the most extraordinary period, unlike anything most of us will ever have known in our lives.
“I do hope that yourselves, individually, but also the young people you represent, just keeping some sort of record of what it has been like to be a young person in the Coronavirus crisis.
“What are the things which matter most to young people? What are the strategies young people are using to get through it all?
Are there any things from what you are experiencing you’d like to see continue, what are the things you are keenest to get back?
“Your experience will be unique, nobody else will have gone through what you are going through at the stage in life you are at. Just putting a bit of thought and effort into collecting those things. We don’t want it to be forgotten when it’s all over.”
The Welsh Youth Parliament is made up of 60 members from across Wales who represent either constituencies or partner organisations. This ensures minority groups such as LGBTQ and BAME communities are included, as well as children with disabilities or from social care backgrounds.