A leading youth voice advocate has been celebrated at a special event attended by Somerset Council staff and councillors.

At the event, which was held at County Hall, Taunton, on 16 February, Josh Lancaster (aged 18) was celebrated for his outstanding contribution to youth advocacy in Somerset, including his role as deputy member of youth parliament (MYP). Attendees heard about Josh’s contribution to a number of youth advocacy groups in the county, including the Unstoppables, a group for young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities aged between 13-25, Youth Forum, a place where young people across Somerset are encouraged to scrutinise Somerset’s services and Children and Young People’s Self Advocacy (CYPSA) which forum for young people aged 0-25 years with special educational needs and/or disabilities in the South West region.

Guests, including Somerset Council Leader Bill Revans, Chief Executive Duncan Sharkey, and Executive Director for Children, Families and Education Claire Winter, heard how Josh has helped young people – including those with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) – have a voice to help make a difference to the services they use and to tackle any issues they may face.

They also heard about Josh’s involvement in the interview process for the Chief Executive role at Somerset Council, and his contribution to a variety of films and animations for youth culture on drugs and alcohol for the Somerset Drugs and Alcohol Service (SDAS), the Unstoppables, and for young people supported in the Somerset Youth Justice Services.

Speaking at the event, Sian Smiley, Engagement and Participation Officer, said:

We were delighted to host this event to acknowledge and celebrate Josh’s outstanding achievements in public service. It’s absolutely vital that we design our services not only for, but also with the young people we support, and we couldn’t do that without the involvement of people like Josh.

As a longstanding Unstoppables member, Josh has been absolutely instrumental in ensuring that the views of young people drive improvements to services. His selfless dedication to serving others inspires members both new and old, who look to him for wisdom and support. The group have commented that they would be lost without his charm, his thoughts and ideas, and members from both forums wanted me to say; ‘Josh, you are awesome and never allowed to leave! Be strong, be different, be you!’”

Josh poses for a photo at the celebration event

About this article

March 4, 2024

Cara Cheshire

Children and Families