As a fifteen-year-old, I campaigned in the Scottish Independence referendum but I could not vote. When I turned sixteen, I was trusted as a door-to-door canvasser for general election but was not seen mature enough to vote. At seventeen, the government successfully denied the voice of over 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds in the UK. No, I did not vote for Brexit but I still have to live it! Now finally it’s the time. My polling card is more than just a document which gives information about the election. It is a symbol of empowerment to me. I finally felt I too had arrived.
Young people engaging in politics is essential but politicians listening to young people is equally important. They were quick to criticise the low turnout but did they try to solve it? Why would a young person be interested to get pale, stale and male back in the office? When we only hear criticism on our behaviour during their term in office. Don’t get me wrong. Yes, young people do care about politics but we are continuously alienated by politicians. Political figures need to train themselves to be role models. They need to show us their human side. We (young people) are sick and tired of seeing their immature, petty and mean behaviour.
Even after all of this, I do see an increase in the numbers of my constituents engaging in the election. More and more of them are out helping their local candidates, leafleting, and canvassing. They now believe some political parties are finally offering a benefit to them directly. This time, not all politicians are just diagnosing but actually proving they can cure it.
According to the evidence compiled at the London School of Economics, turnout among young people aged 18 to 24 in the EU referendum was almost double the level that has been widely reported since polling day. This was the highest turnout for this age group since the 1990s. Young people once again proved that they are passionate and want to make a difference.
Now when the UK is triggering Article 50 and will be making decision that will change our future forever, I believe young people deserve a say in the Brexit negotiation. After all we are the generation that will live the longest with the outcomes of this. We want government to show us the best deal for all young people. We want them to prove us where the funding for university degrees and research placement that came from the EU will come from. We want a say in where the UK invests money after we have left the EU, as we will no longer be paying into the European Union. It is the time to involve us not leave us out in this key and crucial decision!
Young people live and breathe social media, from snapchatting their friends to updating their status on Facebook. Most of the interactions are harmless, friends sharing good times, but knowing what hides behind the scenes of social media interactions is essential. In this ever evolving technological world we need to understand exactly what young people are facing in the current climate of the new world of social media and how vulnerable this can potentially make our younger generation.
Through the power of services like youth work, supporting young people could be the key to helping them face the issues that trouble them the most. This could be anything from cyberbullying and social media trolls to a deeper darker side of the internet involved with child grooming and sexual exploitation. Only yesterday did I stumble across the codes young people use in online chat so their parents are unaware of what is happening. These codes include: LMIRL (let’s meet in real life), CU46 (see you for sex), WTTP (want to trade pictures), KYS (kill yourself) plus many others. But now is the time to find a safe way for the younger generation to enjoy the internet but be protected from potential risks. Media such as Facebook and Twitter should invest more in developing software which highlights when unpleasant events happen during interactions between profiles, to the exchange of unsavoury photographs shared from a young person’s profile.
This election I urge politicians to fight for young people and their online safety, help them develop through supported networks and channels, enable them to have a safe community hub to attend when they need someone to talk to, who they can view as a friendly help rather than someone of authority. A community hub should be a safe place, close to home that young people can access for free with communal Wi-fi, interactive workshops plus a cool place to be with their friends. Even offer sexual health advice and consent discussions. It’s about time the way young people access help and advice is revolutionised. Through this channel of communication, youth workers and services will be able to highlight potential issues and help young people solve them in an approachable way.
Being young should be about discovering who you are, spending time with friends, being free and careless. The transition from adolescent to adult is an exciting yet challenging time, as you are maturing, gaining qualifications, seeking employment, studying maybe looking for the next opportunity on the horizon. No one should have to worry when the next threatening text is coming, or what will happen if their latest snapchat isn’t on ‘fleek’.
It’s time for the younger generation to be empowered and become whoever they want to be! #NoFilter
Democracy is one of the most wonderful things in this world as it allows people to have a voice in choosing who should govern their country. Many people around the world still don’t have this privilege and I am thankful that I do.
As I am able to vote and so are thousands of young people, it’s important that politicians listen and engage with young people. Young people can also engage by campaigning for the parliamentary candidate they support. I do believe it’s a two-sided effort as young people need to make an effort to raise the issues important to them with politicians and equally for politicians reaching out to young people and hearing them out when they have an issue that needs addressing.
An issue that has gained a lot of support from many people so far as it needs to be improved is the access and quality of mental health services. The priority of ‘Our Minds Matter’ aims to do this and it’s something that needs to be addressed at different levels especially on a national level where it can potentially have the most impact. As a member of the NHS Youth Forum this is something that I feel really passionately about. We have been focusing on young people’s rights in healthcare, ensuring that young people know that they have rights and that healthcare professionals recognise and respect those rights. This is crucial within mental health provision for young people. We have created a series of posters on your rights in healthcare and we want all health settings to display these posters and to respect and listen to young people.
Want to get involved?
On June 8th, it is crucial that young people head to the polling station and cast their vote in the General Election. Whatever changes are being implemented now, they will affect our generation – young people – more than they will ever affect the politicians implementing them. This election in particular is extremely important, since the next Parliament will be shaping a post-Brexit Britain. Therefore, we must ensure our interests are represented and considered when conducting negotiations.
Moreover, a high turnout of 18-24 year olds will put young people’s issues on the political agenda. Once we turn out to vote, we send the message that young people are engaged, aware and want to influence their future. We will have to be heard by decision makers.
A significant issue that I am very passionate to see the next Parliament implement is a real national living wage, for young people. This is a key issue for my generation, since the minimum wage for under 25’s is lower than for those over 25. The Real Living Wage is an hourly rate of pay, calculated independently that reflects the cost of living in the UK. It is set as £8.45 across the UK with the exception of £9.75 in London. However, the government’s current living wage falls short of the real living wage by a considerable margin, and is only £7.05 for under 25’s. This is not good enough. Young people across the UK should be afforded the right to earn a wage that enables them to live.
What’s more is that young people can be paid less than their older counterparts for the same job, same hours and same work! This needs to change, as the assumption that young people don’t need as much as over 25’s to live is absurd. A real national living wage for young people has been a key issue that young people raised and was our national priority campaign following over 200k votes in our Make your Mark consultation in 2015.
I hope that the next Parliament will make this a priority and start a dialogue with young people in shaping the future of their country.
If you were to google ‘millennials are’, the words that come after are not inspiring; ‘lazy’, ‘stupid’ or ‘screwed’. This isn’t by chance, it’s part of a wider narrative.
My generation – those who are currently under 25 – are constantly undervalued and undermined.
We’re seen as selfish and entitled, bone-idle and boorish.
Nothing could be further from the truth – young people care. We care about our families and our friends, our schools and hospitals. We care about our future employment and the future of the earth.
Why are we not listened to, or taken seriously?
The first answer is very simple – often our legitimate voices are taken away from us. It simply makes no sense not to enfranchise 16 and 17 year-olds.
The Scottish Referendum showed us that 16 and 17 year-olds will make their views heard if given the opportunity and that all votes are equal to others.
The idea that you can work, pay taxes, marry or die for your country but can’t vote for the people who make those decisions – based on arguments that have essentially boiled down to mental capability and societal norms – is obviously nonsense.
They’re the same arguments that were used to not extend the vote to women and BME communities, many years ago.
We would urge the next government to extend this long denied right, which is quickly becoming a consensus opinion.
This could be the first step of many in making politics accessible to young people – electoral reform, localism, greater representation for young people and digitising our democracy would all give voice to those who are currently voiceless.
The second is that it’s far too easy to ignore us, even when we turn up. Brexit being the prime example. 70% of young people voted Remain, and were outvoted by older generations who won’t have to see the long-term consequences.
Which was an act of democracy, which we respect. What we cannot respect is the systematic undermining of the voices of young people over the single most important issue of the next 10 years. Education funding, Erasmus Plus, free movement, employment and jobs will be shaped for generations to come without input from the generation that it will come down on.
We would urge the next government to involve young people in the future of Brexit as soon as possible.
This will be the shape of the next five years, and a priority for the Government. There are opportunities in Brexit, as well as risks – A Brexit that puts young people’s futures at risk is not a Brexit we can get behind. Young people need to be able to travel to work and study, to share with different cultures and to have clean air to breath.
One clear ask of the next government – give young people the voice we deserve.
Because if you give young people the power over our futures – we won’t just change a Google search term – we’ll change the world.
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:
With just over a month to go until the General Election, Girlguiding is calling on the media to stop commenting on the way politicians look. This call comes as part a charter which also asks the media to ensure young women’s voices are represented in political coverage, and that the diversity of young women’s voices are recognised.
As this election will have a massive impact on important issues like Britain’s future with the EU, it’s more important than ever the media change how they present politicians.Ever since I was old enough to start understanding politics, I’ve felt that becoming a politician was one of the ways I could get my voice heard and make a difference.But as I grew older, I realised I hardly ever saw the media show female politicians and, when they did, there was always some kind of comment about their makeup, clothing, or hair.
The day after the televised debates for the General Election in 2015, I opened the newspaper to find an article discussing how Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood needed a make-over – because apparently her hair and clothes were considered old fashioned. I couldn’t get over the fact the article had completely dismissed the policies she’d discussed the night before in favour of something so superficial.
At this moment, I realised the chances of me being taken seriously as a female politician were slim. Even if I managed to break the glass ceiling surrounding politics, I would most likely have my views trivialised or ignored by the media.However, I didn’t give up on having my voice heard. I constantly reminded the people around me about the importance of voting and being actively interested and involved in politics.
After the Brexit vote, where young people voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, I was reminded of the power of our voices. I was reminded that we have the power to decide our futures by voting for the politicians who we believe best represent us.
In the weeks leading up to the General Election, I want the media to stop portraying women’s looks as the most important thing about them. It seems to me that the media forget these politicians have immense power over our country’s future. We deserve to know what they stand for and what we’re voting for.If the media change the way they report about female politicians, they can avoid disappointing young women like me, who want to have their voices heard but can’t see themselves represented anywhere. The media have the power to inspire a whole generation of new politicians through factual, truthful, and diverse reporting. This needs to be easy to understand, but not patronising.
I hope that through Girlguiding’s charter, the media will start paying attention to how they portray politicians and begin to take responsibility. Young women are political, and if they see all politicians being taken seriously by the media, they will know their voices are being heard and feel inspired for the future. On that note, I want to ask all young women to make sure they’re registered to vote on 8th June. Sometimes it may feel like no one is listening to you, and that your vote is just a drop in the ocean, but I can assure you people are listening and your vote matters.
There’s a real problem I see increasingly, the more I get involved with youth voice and charity work.
The problem –
Young people, on the whole, have been separated and isolated from politics and the importance it has over our lives.
Now you’re probably thinking I blog a lot about big problems; well this would be a crap blog if I blogged about the food I made today. And I like to think the readership (?) I have is a little bit interested in big problems.
This separation from politics I mention is partly a separation of our own transient ignorance – I don’t say ignorance with offence here – and partly a separation by our government which doesn’t teach young people to become voters any more than it teaches young people to become citizens.
The education system in the UK is, therefore, unfit for the purpose.
We approach the government with caps in our hands and wonder why nothing becomes of our requests. Approaching any issue in this manner, I have realised, denotes a superiority of the request-granters. Parliament is made up of our representatives, and it’s crucial to remember that.
It’s always more productive to approach with ideas and to get those ideas into the heads of every decision maker who will listen, and even those who don’t care to listen.
Young people often have no knowledge of how to vote, or how to protest to vote.
We make petitions, and we tweet about things.
Not a problem, any involvement is involvement.
However, Youth councils can be talking shops for CV hunters (as a side note, this is an area in which the British Youth Council are fully exempt), young people are told that they are world changers and action takers, and so often do not understand the drive and skills needed to enact their ideas.
I’ve been talking to a few Welsh politicians over the past few weeks in my capacity as UK Young Ambassador, and a common trend of comment is being told that young people are in the most creative periods of their lives. We can be making the changes we want to see, not waiting in the wings, talking.
I have made the point in a previous blog but I feel it’s still worth making, if we as young people are only allowed a say and input in the future, then we will miss the point again.
If we are only allowed to be the future in the future – and until then we have to passively wait in the wings – then we will struggle with the same questions that our predecessors have struggled with.
Firstly, therefore, the primary step on this journey must be giving 16-year-olds the right to vote.
It must come from the people, all the best programs come from the people, and when it happens this advantage must be used.
Voter turnout among the 18-24-year-olds in the 2010 general election was around 40%.
16-17-year-olds can cause an embarrassment by turning up on election day in droves, while their older siblings stay at home.
Claimed turnout in the Scottish referendum for 16-17-year-olds was at 69%, markedly higher than the 54% of 18-24-year-olds.
What is key from the report on the Scottish referendum is the fact that those who discussed the referendum in schools felt higher levels of political confidence and understanding.
Schools can play a distinctive role, but only when they are allowed to do so.
So I’ve identified the issue and discussed some positive opinions relating to the matter.
Next week I’ll be creating a ‘how it can happen’ blog.
- Read Parliament’s research on votes at 16.
- Read about the British Youth Council’s campaign for votes at 16.
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?
On Monday 19th December, I was invited to shadow the Permanent Secretary for Department for International Development (DFID), Mark Lowcock (who is the most senior Civil Servant in the department), through Whitehall Takeover. It was a really exciting day, especially given my interest in the current state of the Middle East and South East Asia.
The day started with meeting Mark and exploring his role, which is insanely busy! I also met his wonderful team who support his work, as well as other members of staff such as DFID’s Youth Engagement Lead. It was interesting to gain an insight into how the Department operates across the globe and how it manages and interlinks projects, particularly the response to the current Syrian humanitarian crisis, which is an issue I’ve been building a campaign about.
Straight after, I attended a meeting with Mark and the Director Generals of DFID, who each hold an area of the Department’s work, where they discussed targets and provided updates on current projects as well as reflecting on past projects.
However, the best thing about the day was to go to an International Development Committee (IDC) hearing, which is a Departmental Select Committee. A Select Committee is made up of several MPs investigating a certain issue by asking for evidence and making a report with recommendations. In this one, MPs questioned the Permanent Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Development the Right Honourable Priti Patel MP about the activities of the department and how effective they were. It was incredibly interesting to hear about the different aspects, and even got heated quite a few times!
Overall, it was an amazing experience and I learnt a lot! I’d like to say a massive thank you to Michelle Clements from DFID who organised the day, to Max Pumphrey from the Cabinet Office, and above all to the British Youth Council, whose staff do such amazing work day in, day out and are inspirational in their passion to support young people in their pursuit of a better society.