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.”
Over 40 Members of Parliament from across the UK pledged their personal support to promote awareness of the UK Youth Parliament’s Make Your Mark ballot. The vote has been ‘open’ since Friday 12th August 2016 to anyone aged 11-18 years old, to ‘Make their Mark’ on the ballot to shortlist what is debated in the House of Commons chamber by Members of Youth Parliament on 11th November 2016. The vote closes on Wednesday 5th October 2016 and you can find out more and cast your vote online here: www.ukyouthparliament.org.uk/makeyourmark
Support included Minister for Civil Society, with responsibility for youth policy, Rob Wilson MP and British Youth Council Honorary President, Wes Streeting MP. You can find pictures of the Members of Parliament who pledged their support on Facebook.
The ballot will contain 10 policies voted for by Members of Youth Parliament including mental health, and lowering the voting age, which reflect their election pledges in local elections across the UK earlier in the year. The campaign will see Members of Youth Parliament and volunteers across the country, invite young people in schools and youth clubs to take this opportunity to have their say and to inform and influence Government and decision makers in their communities.
This year’s campaign, supported by the British Youth Council, NCS (National Citizen Service), Royal College of Paediatric and Child Health, and #iwill Campaign aims to beat last year’s record of 969,992 young people taking part.
The Commons debate will take place on 11th November, and will be chaired by The Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, who recently spoke at the UK Youth Parliament’s Annual Sitting in York. Young members will then walk through the division lobbies to vote on what should be a become their priority campaigns for 2016/17. In recent years they prioritised “Mental Health” and “Tackling Racism and Religious Discrimination”.
Young people can take part in the consultation by visiting: www.ukyouthparliament.org.uk/makeyourmark
This year’s Youth Parliament, which itself was elected, is expected to be one of the most diverse groups of representatives, with a gender balance, young people from ethnic minorities and different faiths all sitting on the green benches. The young elected representatives, aged 11-18, include many facing the day-to-day challenges that their campaigns seek to address.
The British Youth Council is pleased to announce that it has appointed a new Chief Executive, Jo Hobbs. Jo joins the organisation from Girlguiding where she is currently the Operations Director and will start with the British Youth Council in November.
Jon Foster, Chair, British Youth Council said: “On behalf of the board of trustees, I am delighted to announce that Jo Hobbs will join the British Youth Council in November this year as our new Chief Executive.
“From the moment you first meet Jo her passion for empowering young people is clear. Joining us from Girlguiding, one of our largest national members, Jo understands how the British Youth Council works and the impact our organisation can have; we have great confidence in her vision for British Youth Council ‘s future.
“James Cathcart has been an incredible servant for the British Youth Council, young people and the youth voice sector over the last 8 years. We believe Jo Hobbs is the right person to continue the progress James has made and lead us into the next great chapter in the British Youth Council history.”
Jo Hobbs, incoming Chief Executive, British Youth Council said: “I am thrilled to be taking up the role of Chief Executive at the British Youth Council. I believe in the power of youth participation and the importance of them having a place at the table in any decisions that affect their lives. I am looking forward to working with the amazing young people who are part of the British Youth Council, the fantastic staff team, and our members and partners to ensure that more young people feel empowered to make their voice heard and to make a positive difference in their communities. I am honoured to have the opportunity to lead the British Youth Council through its next phase of development.”