A group of young people across Cambridgeshire that has raised thousands of pounds to help enhance education for children in the county have been praised for their efforts.
The Cambs Youth Panel (CYP) have been working tirelessly throughout the coronavirus lockdown to provide laptops for young people to continue their studies, both across Cambridgeshire and England.
So far, the group has raised and spent £30,000 on computing equipment and are planning to distribute over 600 devices by the end of their latest round of deliveries.
Phil Priestley, a former police sergeant for East Cambridgeshire who founded CYP in 2016, said: “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.”
The panel, with support from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, advises the likes of Cambridgeshire Constabulary, the acting police and crime commissioner and Cambridge City Council on emerging issues concerning young people across the county.
Hannah, 14 and a CYP member, said: “We’ve been working constantly since March to support young people.
“It’s about helping them with their schoolwork, but it’s also about helping them to stay in touch with people they love and tackle feelings of inequality too.”
Prior to the pandemic, CYP had been fundraising to support an international exchange trip to Parkland in Florida to discuss knife crime and street violence.
However, after the trip was cancelled due to travel issues, CYP voted to use their funds to buy laptops for young people who need them most.
The panel, with support from group trustees Mr 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 also provided devices for the reasonably small fee of £60 to families who are unable to afford the standard retail price and for free for those who are most in need.
Councillor Ray Bisby, acting police and crime commissioner, said: “I am thrilled to see the Cambs Youth Panel go from strength to strength.
“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.”