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Cambs Youth Panel secures laptops for young people during lockdown

A PANEL of young people formed three years ago in East Cambridgeshire to forge stronger relationships within their communities has been working tirelessly throughout lockdown to secure laptops for young people to continue their studies.

To date, Cambs Youth Panel has raised and spent £30,000 on computing equipment for young people in Cambridgeshire and across England. They estimate that they will have distributed over 600 devices by the end of their latest round of deliveries.

Established in June 2016 with support from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, the youth panel meets on a monthly basis to advise Cambridgeshire Constabulary, the Acting Commissioner and Cambridge City Council on a number of emerging issues for young people across the county.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Youth Panel had been fundraising to support an international exchange trip to Parkland in Florida to discuss the knife crime and street violence agenda. However, given the insecurities around foreign travel during the pandemic, the panel voted unanimously to use their funds to instead purchase laptops for young people who need them to be able to continue their studies at home during lockdown.

The panel, with support from group trustees Phil Priestley and Inspector Paul Rogerson, have secured additional funding from Cambridgeshire Community Foundation, the Catholic Church (Caritas), Big Lottery Fund and the Proceeds of Crime Act to add to their own crowdfunding.

They have been able to provide devices for as little as £60 to families who are unable to afford the standard retail price and for free for those who are most in need.

Youth Panel member, Hannah, 14 said: “We’ve been working constantly since March to support young people. It’s about helping them with their school work, but it’s also about helping them to stay in touch with people they love and tackles feelings of inequality too.”

Phil Priestley added: “Without structure and without a sense of purpose provided by schools, colleges and youth clubs, we identified that young people are at an increased risk of deteriorating mental health and even self-harm. Providing families with laptops affords young people with a channel of communication and a link to normality that protects them from neurosis or depression.”

Acting Police and Crime Commissioner, Ray Bisby, said:

“I am thrilled to see the Cambs Youth Panel go from strength to strength since it was first founded in 2016.

“The panel has safely shipped computers and devices to those in need from Essex to Yorkshire. This is a phenomenal achievement which has provided a lifeline to many. I would like to thank all those young people involved in the Panel for their sheer hard work in supporting others during Covid-19.”

More information on Cambs Youth Panel can be found on their website