Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Bournemouth blog: On the fringe

Busy day today at Conference, including lunch with Oxfam's director, the international debate in the Conference hall, and taking part in two fringe meetings. The first was a Children's Society event, "Protecting Children or Controlling Borders: What's the Priority for Child Refugees?" and I was a speaker, along with Shami Chakrabati and a lawyer from the Immigration Law Practitioners Association. The audience included some young refugees, who told the meeting of the difficulties they've faced since arriving in the UK. Difficult issues – even if children arrive in this country illegally, shouldn't we still treat them as children and protect their rights over and above protecting our borders? - and would have been good to have had a much longer discussion. I spoke mostly about the situation facing young refugees in east Bristol, and what more could be done to help them and their families.

The second fringe, which I chaired, was a Save the Children event on child poverty, giving five young people the chance to quiz Kevin Brennan, a Minister at the Department of Children, Families and Schools about what the Government is doing to meet its goal of halving child poverty by 2010 and abolishing it within a generation. Included in the five were Freddie and Jenny, Bristol's two youth MPs, who had been at the Conference all day and had met with Alistair Darling earlier, as well as Bev Hughes, the Children's Minister. It was a really good meeting, with excellent contributions from all the young people involved.

Save the Children also had a group of 12 year olds at the Conference, campaigning on Make Poverty History. I came across them wandering around with a 'Where is Douglas Alexander?' banner – might come in handy for me back in Westminster! They'd managed to meet with Douglas earlier, and were buzzing with the excitement of having lobbied a Cabinet minister.

Off to Fabians reception now, or maybe the Absolutely Equal bash, where I hear some Ministers are already hitting the dancefloor!

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