03 Mar 2023

Building confidence and skills for the future with Phoenix

Michael Frimpong is a 17-year-old Phoenix resident and member of their Youth Council. The Phoenix Youth Council is a forum that represents the views of young people in our community in south Lewisham. It is run by young people for young people and empowers them to make recommendations, help craft policies, and engage with the organisation's governance structure on how to improve the lives of young residents and services. The Youth Council is just one way that Phoenix listens to residents' voices. Other ways include the Phoenix Gateway Committee, Resident Communications Group and Scrutiny Panel.

When I first heard that Phoenix was creating a Youth Council, I did not only think that it would be great work experience for my CV, but I saw it as a chance to help young people like me have a better chance of succeeding in life.  

The Youth Council is a great opportunity for young people to voice their opinions about housing in Lewisham. From past experiences with Youth Councils, I have found that the staff typically run the meetings, but at Phoenix, we actually lead the sessions. We are at the forefront of change, with Phoenix staff aiding us - the young people to create that change.

For example, in January this year, I volunteered to be part of an involved residents' workshop at The Green Man (Phoenix's offices and community building), to give feedback on Phoenix's Governance Review and Customer Services Strategy to ensure that Phoenix involves more young people in their plans. A fellow Youth Council member joined the workshop too. We were nervous, but what made the day a success for us was that all the adults in the room were impressed by how well we adapted to the situation, presented our views, and spoke on behalf of other young people in the Phoenix community. 

Working with other young people means that our voices can be heard. The more people you have with you to raise attention to a cause, the more you can successfully bring that cause to life.

Having a say and playing an active role in shaping policies and making recommendations that feed into the Phoenix board and governance structure shows that my landlord is committed to listening to young people and for our ideas to shape the future of the organisation.

Currently, the Phoenix Youth Council is using our voice to bring attention to issues we know impact young people in our community, such as crime and safety, the cost-of-living crisis, mental and physical health, and exploring opportunities to tackle isolation and highlight job and training opportunities. We are also helping Phoenix shape its Safeguarding Policy, which is based on Empowerment, Prevention, Proportionality, Protection, Partnership and Accountability.

The above are our goals for the year, but as a member of the Youth Council I have two other goals – one for the group and one for myself. The first goal is to ensure we involve more young people in the Phoenix Youth Council so that they can share their lived experiences and get their voices heard. I only live in one part of Lewisham, but their lives, problems and issues could be completely different from mine and my lived experiences. Sharing these stories will ensure that Phoenix provides better services and support to its young residents and young people in its community.

The second is to become a better leader. Being part of the Youth Council means that I have managed to gain a wealth of experience and skills that will help me well into the future. The biggest skill that I've walked away with is leadership skills. Before I joined the Phoenix Youth Council, I never really had a chance to lead a group; even when the opportunity arose, I would pass it up. But recently, I had the chance to chair the last Youth Council meeting. I'm not entirely confident in my leadership skills yet, but the skills I've already gained gave me the confidence to rise to the occasion and lead the meeting – ensuring it ran smoothly whilst allowing everyone to speak and share their opinions. Although it was nerve-wracking, I can't wait to use these skills at school and in the workplace.