The next few weeks are going to be full of general election talk. We’ll hear many politicians make promises, targeting the segments of the electorate that they think will turn out to vote, which isn’t young people. Back in 2015, it was famously said that a politician with a spare hour to canvas should choose an old people’s home rather than a sixth form college. And we need to change this story.
As the national youth council for the UK, the British Youth Council will be championing the view of young people throughout this election campaign and demanding that Parliamentary Candidates talk to us, not about us. We have consulted extensively with young people about the key issues that are important to them in a general election and we are asking the political parties to tell us what they are going to do about these issues:
- A youth voice in Brexit – Young people will live with the consequences of Brexit for the longest and need to be a meaningful part of the process. We want a commitment to young people being at the heart of the negotiation process.
- 16: A new age for democracy – Over 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds are currently denied the right to vote. We want a commitment to give 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote in all elections and referenda across the UK.
- Our minds matter – The Youth Select Committee on Mental Health found that young people’s mental health services do not have equality of funding with adult services. We want a commitment to improving the access to and quality of our mental health services.
- A real living wage for everyone – In April 2016 the government introduced a higher minimum wage rate for all staff over 25 years of age, although it doesn’t pay what people need to live. We want a commitment to equal pay for equal work, whatever your age and a wage that meets the cost of living.
- Save our youth services – Youth services have suffered as a result of financial cuts and restrictions. We want a commitment for existing youth services to have funding priority over new initiatives.
- Teach first aid in schools – First aiders can be the difference between life and death. We want a commitment to equip young people with the first aid skills to save lives, empowering them to become active citizens in their communities.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be seeking a commitment from the main political parties on these issues as well as sharing a series of blogs from young people on this issues that are important to them in this General Election.
How you can get involved:
Over the past year, the British Youth Council along with numerous other leading youth organisations have been working hard to understand the views of young people in regards to exiting the EU. We have found that over 90% wanted to have a meaningful say in the Brexit negotiations and to ensure this is meaningful and not tokenistic.
Last week, that research started to make a difference as the British youth Council gathered a number of key organisations within the youth sector for a roundtable meeting with Government Ministers on how young people can shape this process.
The meeting was instigated after a letter from our former Chair, Jon Foster, was sent to Oliver Letwin MP, the then chief of temporary EU Unit at the Cabinet Office. The letter requested youth voices are heard in future negotiations. At the Annual Council Meeting, young people voted in a motion stating that voices of young people need to be represented in post-referendum negotiations on issues such as free movement and opportunities; as such, we felt it imperative to lead this position and take this demand to the heart of government.
The British Youth Council believes in putting young people at the heart of decision-making, so I along with other youth representatives met with the Government’s lead on youth policy, Rob Wilson MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Robin Walker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, at the Department for Exiting the EU to discuss the youth perspective but importantly the future youth involvement in Brexit. We want to see young people at the heart of the negotiation process, moving beyond consultation and into active participation.
We very much look forward to working with government, the youth sector and young people in the following months to make this a reality. We have the chance to shape the political engagement of a generation – now is the time to show young people and their voices make a difference!
In a speech yesterday at Lancaster House, Theresa May, Prime Minister, set out the Government’s Brexit plans in detail for the first time. Theresa May talked about the Brexit negotiations shaping a “brighter future” and a better Britain for future generations, and the British Youth Council believes that this can only happen if young people are a part of the process.
Are you interested in getting involved?
What a year 2016 had been for everyone. We have had enough elections, referendums and political bombshells to last us a few years. But… this is only the start.
Amidst all of the political and economic uncertainty, I am proud to say that young people across the world and in the UK have been a constant source of inspiration. The thoughts and actions of so many youths have inspired millions and I am looking forward to seeing what comes next.
To reflect on the year at the British Youth Council we have had enormous amounts of inspiring young people volunteering their time to make a difference In their communities. From the Votes at 16 galvanising support to the election of our new priority campaigns. UK Youth Parliament had a record breaking year with 978,216 votes cast in the Make Your Mark campaign. Then they went on to brilliantly debate these issues in the House of Commons with Votes at 16 coming out on top and Curriculum for Life for England. The youth select committees from this year and last produced amazing reports that have continued to impact formal and informal decision making. Our EU referendum voter drive and post result consultation has been an enormous success that will take us into the new year as a key theme.
Internally we have seen a new generation of leadership flourish as we say goodbye to the previous. James Cathcart spent nearly a decade leading this organisation so brilliantly; it was an honour to be the Chair to assist him saying goodbye. The journey with our new leader and CEO has been a roller coaster of energy, dynamism and impact. I am thrilled to be in a new phase for the organisation which is being led superbly by Jo Hobbs, in which we will see amazing things happen; all in the belief of youth voice and youth social action.
Thank you to everyone who made this year so special and impactful. A personal thanks has to go to all of the tireless staff, volunteers and workers in the sector, and at the British Youth Council. They all make it all possible for so many. I’m wishing you all a happy Christmas, new year and holiday.
What will 2017 bring? I’m not sure how it will play out, but I do know that the British Youth Council will be front and centre of representing the views of young people. We will do this through our programmes, strategic review and in supporting our membership to get their voices heard. We will be spearheading the fight to make the world around us a more fair, equal and just society for all. With that in mind, I can’t wait for 2017 to start.