We have made the very reluctant decision to pause UK Youth Parliament programme in Northern Ireland, while we seek sustainable funding. This will mean we will not run elections for Members of Youth Parliament, for the term starting in March 2017.
We are immensely proud of our partnership with Northern Ireland Youth Forum, the achievements of this cross-community initiative, and the Members of Youth Parliament. In 2011, we delivered the first ever youth elections I Northern Ireland. This year we ran a record-breaking turnout with 37 schools receiving Democracy Awards. These elections and support for the Members of Youth Parliament in Northern Ireland are the only ones that the British Youth Council directly fund and run in the UK. For the past few years, this has come from the British Youth Council reserves. As a comparison, youth elections in Scotland, Wales and England are all funded and supported by statutory agencies, similar to adult elections.
This past year we were unsuccessful in securing funding, but made the decision to run a reduced programme. However, we recognise that this is not a sustainable option. So have come to the conclusion that we now need to communicate to stakeholders that the programme in Northern Ireland is being paused while we seek to secure funding.
In 2015, thanks to securing funding, we were able to involve the 18 Member of Youth Parliaments, in the UK programme as never before: Attending the UK wide Youth Voice Leadership Programme residential in Kent along with 300 other youth representatives as part of their induction, taking part in the Annual Sitting debating policy and receiving personalised training, meeting with MLAs, hosting a reception in Stormont, lobbied MPs, consulted over 41,000 young people, and debated in the House of Commons Chamber.
This pause of the programme in Northern Ireland comes at a time when the Welsh Assembly has just announced it will be proposing a new bill to restore young assembly in Wales which will support the representation of Welsh young people. In previous years we had support from the Northern Ireland Youth Council, and Politics Plus.
As a youth-led charity, the British Youth Council remain very committed to a UK Youth Parliament with representation from all of the UK. We are therefore putting plans in place, to take a year out with a view to securing funding and being able to offer young people a return to a programme similar to 2015.
The Government is bringing forward plans to introduce legislation that will see every child from the age of 4 taught sex education, according to a written statement by the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening. The British Youth Council welcomes the news that more young people will be empowered with sex education and warns it must be high quality and accompanied by citizenship education.
The British Youth Council have been working to convince the Government to introduce statutory and compulsory high-quality citizenship and sex and relationship education to the curriculum for a number of years. In 2013, the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee report ‘A Curriculum for Life’ concluded life skills education in schools fell well short of its full potential and little has been done to address the report’s findings since.
The British Youth Council were first aware of a possible change in the Government’s stance on PSHE last month when the Government indicated it was ‘actively considering the case for further action on PSHE’. The Government’s comments were made in response to the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee report on young people and the issues of racism and religious discrimination.
The British Youth Council believes that students should leave our education systems equipped with the skills, knowledge and experience to become active, well-informed and confident members of their local, national and global communities. This means making sure that education covers politics and democratic life, as well as social issues such as sex and relationship education.
It’s evident that young people feel that the current citizenship education and SRE curriculum provisions are inadequate and that they are being denied a better understanding of themselves, relationships, society and politics. Young people have repeatedly called for a curriculum for life, most recently in UK Youth Parliament’s 2016 Make Your Mark ballot of 978,216 young people, when the issue was voted a top priority.
The British Youth Council believes the current scope of the citizenship curriculum is too narrow and should encompass wider political and constitutional rights, as well as social issues including global citizenship and sustainability, legal rights and financial literacy, human rights, liberation, diversity and information regarding mental health.
According to political commentators, it is likely that the introduction of a compulsory sex education would also include a change in teacher training. The British Youth Council believes that Government should ensure there is sufficient and appropriate training, development and specialist support for teachers dealing with the complex and sensitive issues of citizenship education and sex and relationship education. Teacher training must ensure that those delivering these programmes are confident, competent, impartial, consistent and professional. The information and training provided on consent, abuse, and sexual violence should be inclusive of all gender and sexual identities.
Anna Rose Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council said:
“It’s absolutely fantastic to hear the Government are introducing statutory sex education, however, we’d like to see sex education that it is high quality and accompanied by citizenship education. We’ve been campaigning on this issues for a number of years and we’re delighted that the Government is finally listening to young people.
“We first learned of a change in Government policy last month in response to the Youth Select Committee’s report on racism and religious discrimination, in which we repeated our calls for compulsory PSHE.
“We look forwad to working with the Government and partners such as the PSHE Association to ensure this is implemented well at all schools across the UK.”
The Government has today (Tuesday 7th February 2017) released its official response to the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee Report – ‘Young People and the Issues of Racism and Religious Discrimination’. In an unprecedented move, the joint response has been issued by three departments including the Department for Education, Home Office and Department for Communities and Local Government. The response states the Government’s commitment to building ‘a country that works for everyone’.
The joint Government response, which offers an answer to each of the Youth Select Committee’s recommendations, makes a commitment to support schools to produce their own codes of practice, bringing together the various statutory duties and policies, to set out the principles for a whole school approach to inclusivity and tolerance. The Government has also welcomed Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton’s proposal to the establish a national hate crime advisory group.
The response follows the Youth Select Committee’s inquiry which considered both written and oral evidence and concluded that racist taunting was being dismissed as banter in schools across the UK. In the report, published in November 2016 the Committee offered recommendations pertaining to the level and quality of awareness and education in schools, the prevalence of racism and religious discrimination and how organisations and young people are attempting to tackle it, how the issues can be tackled at a local level by communities and how tackling racism and religious discrimination should be approached at a national level by the Government.
Throughout the inquiry, evidence was gathered from a range of witnesses, including charities, young people, academics, Ministers and education professionals. The inquiry was triggered after the issue topped the UK Youth Parliament’s Make Your Mark ballot in 2015 of 969,992 young people in the UK.
The Youth Select Committee have made it clear that in order to tackle racism and religious discrimination changes must be made to the PSHE syllabus. Despite not agreeing, the Government have stated they are ‘actively considering the case for further action on PHSE’, a message which represents a change in tone in the Government’s response on PSHE lessons.
During the inquiry, which took place in the wake of ‘post-Brexit racism’, the Government published their Hate Crime Action Plan which looks to focuses on reducing hate crime, increasing reporting, and improving support for victims. The Government have made it clear that they are invested in tackling racism and religious discrimination, and the British Youth Council will be looking to the Government’s response to the Casey Review, which is due to be released in Spring 2017, to see what steps the Government
Bronagh Hughes, Chair of the Youth Select Committee said:
“The Youth Select Committee welcomes the Government’s swift and comprehensive response to our report published late last year, ‘Young People and the Issue of Racism and Religious Discrimination’, and is particularly appreciative of the cross-departmental nature of the response we have received.
“Whilst we do wish that more of our recommendations could have been supported, we were particularly pleased to read of the Department of Education’s consideration of further action on the teaching of PSHE, and the Government’s welcome of the establishment of a national hate crime Independent Advisory Group for young people. These are issues that are very important to all members of the Youth Select Committee.”
Download the Youth Select Committee Report ‘Young People and the Issues of Racism and Religious Discrimination’
Download Government response to Youth Select Committee Report ‘Young People and the Issues of Racism and Religious Discrimination’
UK Youth Parliament has commenced their campaign to ensure all 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds can vote in elections. The aim of the year-long campaign is to build on the increasing support for a lower voting age of 16 in all elections and referenda. Today’s National Day of Action will see Members of Youth Parliament call on politicians and schools to take part in campaign activities such as talks, and events.
Over the next year, UK Youth Parliament will campaign, with the support of the Votes at 16 Coalition, to widen the conversation, increase support among decision makers and highlight young people’s current participation in democracy. The Votes at 16 Coalition has worked to make the case for votes at 16 since its establishment by the British Youth Council in 2003.
The campaign starts following the Make Your Mark ballot which took place in the autumn of 2016 which saw the issue become one of the top five issues with 112,680 young people nominating it as their most important issue. In a subsequent vote by Members of Youth Parliament in the House of Commons votes at 16 was chosen as the next national campaign.
Lucy Boardman, 17, Member of Youth Parliament for Stockport said: “Votes at 16 is gaining more and more support, and it’s vital that we keep this momentum going when the democratic voices of 16 and 17-year-olds continue to be ignored. It’s unacceptable that 1.5 million young people were denied a vote in the EU Referendum last year; a historical decision that will affect us for generations to come. We must continue to strive towards Votes at 16, to ensure that the voices and opinions of young people across the UK, are listened to. This year we’ll be calling on local authorities and decision makers to come out in support of Votes at 16, and give the next generation the chance to have their voices heard.”
Anna Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “The denial of 16 and 17-year-olds at the ballot box remains an issue that young people have challenged since as early as 1992. I’m delighted to hear Members of Youth Parliament across the country will be calling on local decision makers to support votes at 16. This year, UK Youth Parliament will think national, but act locally in its attempts to change minds and challenge the status quo. It’s time we had some parity on the issue. Scottish 16 and 17-year-olds have been empowered to vote. Now it’s right that young people across the UK are afforded and entrusted with the same rights.”
Over the past 14 years, the Votes at 16 Coalition have been tracking support for a lower voting age. Their research indicates all Members of Scottish Parliament in unanimous support, huge increases in support within the House of Lords and as many as for 41% of Members of Parliament declaring their support for votes at 16. Recently we’ve also seen local authorities such as Norwich City Council, come forward in support and this year we’re hoping to engage with even more local councils.
In 2014, 75% of 16 and 17-year-olds in Scotland voted in the independence referendum, a vote that has set a precedent and should serve as proof that when young people feel they have an authentic opportunity to influence change they will take part. We’re hoping the common sense argument will prevail – alongside a ‘curriculum for life’ with citizenship/political education and easy voter registration, votes at 16 is not only good for the future of democracy but a necessary change.
You can find out more about the campaign here: http://ukyouthparliament.org.uk/votesat16
The British Youth Council welcomes the Government’s proposal to focus mental health reforms on young people but we recognise more is needed to ensure parity of esteem for children and young people’s mental and physical health.
On Monday 9th January 2017, Prime Minister, Theresa May announced measures to transform mental health support in our schools, workplaces and communities. In a speech at the Charity Commission, May set out measures which would see additional training for teachers, an extra £15m for community care, online self-checking and mental health first aid training.
The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee published a report on young people’s mental health in the winter of 2015. The Committee found a range of issues facing young people’s mental health, including the absence of support and signposting in schools, bullying online, stigma around the discussion of mental health and the growing pressures and decreasing funding.
The Government have since taken on a number of its recommendations and we’re pleased to see the Prime Minister reaffirming their commitments. In our recommendations, we made it clear all teachers should receive mandatory minimum training on young people’s mental health as part of their initial teacher training and we’re looking forward to seeing what this works in practice in the coming months.
Rhys Hart, Chair of the Youth Select Committee on Young People’s Mental Health said: “I’m delighted that the Government have reaffirmed their commitment to young people’s mental health. The Youth Select Committee’s comprehensive investigation discovered some important and serious issues around the current state of young people’s mental health services and although we have stressed the importance of mandatory training for teachers on young people’s mental health it’s imperative a whole school approach is taken to ensure we really tackle the issues at hand.”
Download Government Response to the Youth Select Committee’s Report on ‘Young People’s Mental Health’.
Every three months we invite young leaders and youth representatives, including Members of Youth Parliament (MYPs), Deputy Members of Youth Parliament (DMYPs), Youth Councillors, Young Mayors and Deputy Young Mayors, to share their stories of the positive activities they have been engaging in recently.
We also give workers the opportunity to update us on the activities of the youth groups they work with and support. The reports also serve as an opportunity to celebrate our award winners and talk about some of the British Youth Council’s core activities and campaign milestones.
As part of commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child Article 13 – Freedom of expression: ‘Every child must be free to say what they think and to seek and receive all kinds of information, as long as it is within the law’ (UNICEF UK) our content is split into two parts:
- Positive stories from youth representatives (including Members of Youth Parliament (MYPs), Deputy Members of Youth Parliament (DMYPs), Youth Councillors, Young Mayors and Deputy Young Mayors)
- Positive stories from our members, of varying size, from across the UK.
- Update from support workers on the activities of the youth groups they work with and support
The case studies and stories of the work of young people in their local communities are reproduced here in their own words. If you would like to find out more about one of the projects you read about in this report, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Our latest report is available for download below. The case studies and stories of the work of young people in their local communities are reproduced here in their own words.
The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee will launch its report on ‘racism and religious discrimination’ on Wednesday 16th November 2016. The report, launched as part of UK Parliament Week, concludes that people’s attitudes towards racism and religious discrimination have become normalised and there is ambiguity surrounding what constitutes such behaviour. It stresses that the Government needs to do more to define racism and religious discrimination as well as to raise awareness of what these definitions actually mean in practice. The committee also recommends making PSHE a compulsory subject in schools, with teachers receiving better training on tackling racism and religious discrimination; a recommendation the Government has not ruled out.
Bronagh Hughes, 18, Chair of the Youth Select Committee said: “Throughout our extensive inquiry into racism and religious discrimination, it became apparent to the Committee that racism and religious discrimination remains prevalent in the lives of many young people living in the UK. The UK’s decision to leave the EU brought this issue to the forefront of political discussion following the post-Brexit surge in hate crime that surfaced. Moving forward, we must ensure that this is high on the agenda for decision makers so that we can make positive steps to combat both racism and religious discrimination. The Committee is really keen to hear the Government’s response to our recommendations.”
Now in its fifth year, the Youth Select Committee, supported by the House of Commons, takes evidence in public and has its proceedings streamed online and recorded in Hansard. The eleven committee members are aged 15-19 and include Members of UK Youth Parliament, Youth Councillors, a Young Mayor, reserved seats and representatives from each of the devolved nations. Previous inquiries have reported on transport, education, votes at 16, and mental health.
This year’s inquiry considered:
- the level and quality of awareness and education in schools
- the prevalence of racism and religious discrimination and how organisations and young people are attempting to tackle it
- how the issues can be tackled at a local level by communities;
- how tackling racism and religious discrimination should be approached at a national level by the Government.
Evidence was gathered from a range of witnesses, including charities, young people, academics, and professionals.
‘Tackling racism and religious discrimination’ was chosen as one of the top priorities in a ballot of 969,992 young people conducted in 2015, and subsequently became the topic of focus for this year’s Youth Select Committee. The issue was highlighted as a priority once again in a 2016 poll of 978,216 young people, making it clear that the issue is of growing importance to young people living in the UK. The committee realises that despite the UK having strong equal rights laws and a Government Equalities Office responsible for taking action to remove barriers to equality and help build a fairer society, racism and religious discrimination continue to remain prevalent in everyday life for many people living in the UK. The UK’s decision to leave the European Union, and the repercussions of that vote in subsequent weeks brought this issue to the forefront of public attention.
276 elected Members of Youth Parliament (aged 11-18) debated the top issues affecting young people across the country today, live in the House of Commons Chamber. Chaired by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Members of Youth Parliament voted to campaign on votes at 16 and a curriculum for life in 2017.
112,687 young people across the UK voted to lower the voting age to 16 as their top priority in the recent Make Your Mark ballot, with 978,216 votes.
Votes at 16 has been a campaign for the UK Youth Parliament for several years and there were passionate speeches for the campaign in the House of Commons Chamber today. Speaking on the topic of lowering the voting age to 16, Victor Sarpong, aged 15, Member of Youth Parliament for Member of Youth Parliament for Havering, said: “Votes at 16 has been on the agenda for a long time and it’s time young people aged 17 and 18 were given the vote in every part of the UK. Next year, we will continue to push for votes at 16 in all elections and referendums, so that 1.5million young people can rightfully have their say!”
Curriculum for Life was chosen as the priority campaign for England. Previously the UK Youth Parliament has campaigned on the topic and Members of Youth Parliament have engaged with a Youth Select Committee inquiry-a British Youth Council initiative, delivered in partnership with Parliament. Lili Donlon-Mansbridge, aged 17, Member of Youth Parliament for Poole, said: “UK Youth Parliament is committed to pursuing a curriculum that prepares young people for life. We believe that the place of citizenship education and PSHE in the curriculum should be radically overhauled and next year Members of Youth Parliament will be campaigning to ensure this remains a priority”
Jonathan Baggaley, Chief Executive, PSHE Association, said: “Young people are struggling with the pressures and anxieties of today’s world. With this vote they are telling us they want schools to prepare them to meet these challenges through PSHE education and citizenship education.
The fact that this is a continuing priority for the UK Youth Parliament tells us once again that not enough has been done to improve the status of PSHE education in schools.
We hope that the Government listens to these young people today and strengthens the status of PSHE education in all schools for the good of our young people, and our society. We look forward to supporting the UK Youth Parliament and British Youth Council with their campaign.“
UK Youth Parliament will now develop campaign actions to enable Members of Youth Parliament to hold a day of action on Friday 20th January 2017.
Members of Parliament are due to debate the Government’s response to the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee report on ‘Young People’s Mental Health’ in the House of Commons on Thursday 27th October 2016. The backbench debate has been secured by Helen Hayes MP, Member of Parliament for Dulwich, who is looking to scrutinise the Government’s progress since publishing their response.
Mental health has remained a top priority for the British Youth Council for a number of years now. Young people in our membership have called for mental health services to be more accessible and youth-friendly; for the Government to make greater investments; and for the stigma around mental health to be challenged. The British Youth Council welcomes the news that Members of Parliament have taken up the cause – this is a huge positive contribution towards addressing young people’s concerns around their mental health provision. As such, the British Youth Council are mobilising young people to contact their MPs and ask them to:
- Attend the debate on 27th October and speak out positively in support of young people’s mental health as a priority
- Tweet their support for the debate using #ourminds.
The Youth Select Committee embarked on an inquiry in the spring of 2015 seeking to explore the state of young people’s health services. In November 2015, the Committee launched it’s report where it made recommendations across three key areas: funding and the state of services; the role for education and raising awareness; and tackling stigma and the role of digital culture in this. The Government’s response, co-authored by the Department for Education and Department of Health, acknowledged mental health and well-being as a ‘top priority in both departments’; and they acknowledged that young people’s mental health had been “undervalued, underfunded and under prioritised for far too long”.
Rhys Hart, Chair of the Youth Select Committee said:
“I am delighted to hear Members of Parliament are debating the Government’s response to the Youth Select Committee’s report into ‘Young People’s Mental Health’. It is evident that mental health continues to be a priority for young people across the UK, so it’s important it doesn’t slip off the agenda as we battle to ensure services are improved for the better.”
Anna Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council said:
“The Youth Select Committee’s extensive investigation into young people’s mental health gave the Government some very clear recommendations on what was needed to improve young people’s mental health services and it is really encouraging to hear it is being kept on the agenda.”
- 978,216 young people vote to prioritise UK Youth Parliament debates with education, racism and religious discrimination, public transport, votes at 16, and the health service in the top five.
- Members of Youth Parliament to take over Parliament on Armistice Day.
Young people have prioritised a curriculum for life as a top priority in a ballot of 978,216 young people, aged 11-18, from across the country, on what should be debated by the UK Youth Parliament in the House of Commons on 11th November 2016. The annual Make Your Mark ballot, was championed by Members of Youth Parliament, volunteers across the country, local authorities and schools and prioritised five topics to be debated in the House of Commons.
The winning topic is a ‘curriculum for life’ which calls on schools to cover subjects such as finance, sex and relationship education and politics, to better prepare young people for life after school. Young people have been passionate about creating a curriculum for life for a number of years. It’s evident that young people want citizenship education and PSHE’s place in the curriculum to be prioritised. Both are important for young people’s growth and development as they teach vital life skills and can be the first steps to engaging young people in political life.
This was followed in the poll by ‘tackling racism and religious discrimination’, ‘transport’, ‘lowering the voting age to 16’, and ‘stopping cuts that affect the NHS.
Last year racism and religious discrimination, (particularly against people who are Muslim or Jewish), was one of the top issues and was subsequently voted to be the UK Youth Parliament national campaign for 2016 – ‘Don’t Hate, Educate!’
Local turnouts for Make Your Mark have been significant. Redbridge has climbed to the top in 2016 with a turnout of 75%, followed by Slough (67%) and Walsall with 66%. This year Connor Hill, Member of Youth Parliament for Dudley, returned the most ballots collecting 8,732, with Caitlin Cavanagh, Member of Youth Parliament for Liverpool returning 7,222, and Samantha-Rose Beacham, Member of Youth Parliament for Derbyshire collecting 6,563.
UK Youth Parliament House of Commons Sitting
Once again the UK Youth Parliament’s House of Commons Sitting on Friday 11th November 2016 will be chaired by Rt. Hon. John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons who has chaired every debate in the House of Commons since their first sitting in 2009, as the only group other than MPs able to debate on the famous green benches. Up to 300 elected young representatives from all parts of the UK will take over the House of Commons, marking Armistice Day with a two-minute silence, before debating the five campaigns, and voting to choose their priorities for 2017. Finally they will hear the Government’s initial response from the Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson MP. This year there will be an additional debate on “a better democracy” where “more unites than divides us”.
Connor Hill, Member of Youth Parliament for Dudley, who collected the most ballots said: “Make Your Mark simply proves that young people do want to engage with the political system and have their say on a nation scale. The amount of ballots collected is just something that never fails to amaze me and to have collected 978,216 ballots just makes me even more shocked! From this consultation, we can show that we are democratically campaigning for young people across the nation so that THEIR voices are heard effectively. The best part about such an astonishing figure is that it is all collected by the most inspiring volunteers who never cease to amaze me, and on behalf of everyone, we thank you for Making Your Mark. Thank you for empowering a generation.”
Anna Barker, Chair, British Youth Council said: “Young people have been calling for a curriculum for life for a number of years, and it’s now important politicians sit up and listen to our concerns! Thousands of young people have made it clear what they are passionate about and politicians around the country must ensure their views are heard and acted upon. Once again, young people have demonstrated that if you give them an authentic platform to have their say, they will take part in high numbers!”
Rob Wilson MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Civil Society, with responsibility for youth policy said: “Congratulations to the 978,216 young people who voted in this year’s Make Your Mark Ballot, and to all the volunteers who have worked so hard to get such a great turnout. It’s really important that young people engage in issues that are important to them and I’m really pleased that so many have chosen to do so through this year’s ballot.”