Blogs and news about lowering the voting age to 16.
Today we heard the Government’s legislative plan via the Queen’s Speech. There was some good news, some expected news, and a huge missed opportunity.
The British Youth Council campaigned on six key issues in the run up to the General Election. These are the issues that young people have told us are important to them and they want to Government to listen.
So the good news is a commitment to reforming mental health legislation to ensure that mental health is prioritised in the NHS. Our Youth Select Committee in 2015 made recommendations to Government on issues such as funding, training for GPs, and support in education, and we look forward to seeing the detail of the new legislation.
We are also pleased to see a commitment to raising the National Living Wage. The recent Social Mobility Barometer highlighted that young people believe their future to be bleak, and proper and fair pay for work is crucial to this. So whilst the announcement today is good news we would like to see this go further, with the introduction of the real Living Wage, and a pay structure that does not discriminate by age.
As expected, there is a significant number of legislative proposals in relation to Brexit. This is going to dominate the political narrative over the next two years. Therefore Proposals around the great repeal bill, immigration and trade come as no surprise.
What is severely lacking is the government’s response to young people. The youth vote grew massively at this election, showing that young people care about political issues and will turn up when politicians show that are listening. What is missing from all the talk of Brexit is a commitment to putting young people at the heart of negotiations. We have written to the Prime Minister seeking an early to meeting to discuss how we can work to ensure young people are part of the process and not left behind.
Also missing is a commitment to invest in and listen to young people. BYC and the Votes at 16 Coalition have long been campaigning to lower the voting age to 16 in all public elections, complemented by comprehensive political literacy as part of a compulsory PSHE curriculum. This would ensure that all citizens understand our democratic processes and are prepared and empowered to play their part.
The British Youth Council are excited to welcome the new minister responsible for youth policy, Tracey Crouch MP. Crouch is taking over the Office for Civil Society following the departure of Rob Wilson who has been in charge of the brief since 2014.
The British Youth Council have worked under various Government departments since 2011 to deliver it’s Youth Voice programme. The Youth Voice programme, which is currently supported by Department for Culture, Media and Sport, includes UK Youth Parliament and Youth Select Committee.
The British Youth Council will be writing to welcome the Minister to the new role, however, will be highlighting concerns for the size of the brief which will include other responsibilities. It is our longstanding belief, that the Government should appoint a Minister solely responsible for young people – a role which has not existed since 2010.
Ife Grillo, Vice Chair – Participation and Development, British Youth Council said: “We can’t wait to continue our work with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport but we are particularly concerned about the size of Tracey Crouch’s brief and we’ll be seeking out reassurances at the earliest opportunity! We have repeatedly made it clear we believe a Minister for Youth should be appointed and we’ll be using this opportunity to highlight that issue again.”
We will also use this opportunity to remind the Government of the six issues we highlighted in the lead-up to the General Election which included the underfunding of youth services and the ensuring young people have a meaningful opportunity to influence Brexit negotiations which are due to start next week.
Anna Barker, Chair, British Youth Council said: “We look forward to working with Tracey Crouch going forward, to ensure young people’s voices continued to be heard by the Government. With the reported increase in young people turning up to cast their votes, it’s absolutely imperative that young people are given a chance to influence Government policy going forward!”
The British Youth Council are delighted to hear reports of a high youth turnout in the General Election. Politicians must drop their excuses and address young people’s concerns during this Parliament.
Decision makers across the country have repeatedly told young people that their voices will continue to be less of a priority until they turnout in elections. Now that young people have turned up, Members of Parliament must not only acknowledge young people but actively include them in the democratic process.
The British Youth Council wrote to political parties ahead of the General Election requesting their firm commitments to the six priorities set out in our General Election Manifesto. Young people want better mental health provision for young people, the introduction of a real living wage for everyone, the restoration of funding for youth services and an opportunity to influence Brexit negotiations.
Anna Barker, Chair, British Youth Council said: “Politicians have repeatedly told us our issues will become a priority when young people turnout. Young people have now sent a clear message! Members of Parliament must now address the core issues of young people!”
We’ve been warning politicians that they must use our vote or loose and this election may just serve as a share wake up call!”
The British Youth Council will be working hard to lobby Parliament and the Government – ensuring that young people’s issues remain a priority. Going forward the British Youth Council will be writing to the Prime Minister and the newly appointed Minister responsible for youth policy to ensure young people can influence policy at the highest levels of the Government.
Jake Pitt, Vice Chair – Campaigns and Communications, British Youth Council said: “It is now important that we continue to work closely with Government departments to address the key issues and ensure young people have a meaningful opportunity to influence our exit from the European Union. The election is just the beginning of the cycle, now we need to hold politicians to account!”
I hear this so often from people, in regards to what many view as young people’s political disengagement. Not only is this stance is overly-simplistic and lacking in nuance, it’s fatalistic. It takes no accountability for encouraging further political engagement via traditional, more visible and measurable channels. If this argument were the case one would have to ask, chicken-or-egg-style; what came first? The de-prioritisation of young people within policy and mainstream political channels, or the supposed disengagement of young people from said channels? It’s easy to draw loose correlations void of analysis, but if we truly care about empowering young people to be effective political actors we must do more.
An example of a small action that would contribute to removing obstacles from the paths of budding young political actors, would be to avoid calling elections in the middle of exam periods. Many students have flagged this as an issue; not just finding the time to physically vote during such a crucial point in our lives, but to go through the respective party manifestos to make a thoroughly informed decision, also taking the time to understand where votes would be most effective (in the constituency of their university address or permanent home). This requires a fair understanding of how our political system works, yet no party has taken responsibility for making political education compulsory. In spite of this, over 90,000 young people aged 18 to 24 registered to vote on the 21st May this year alone. Last year there was a 64% turnout for the same age group during the EU referendum (not too far off the average turnout).
A UNISON report has shown that between April 2010 – 2016 an estimated £387m was cut from youth service spending. We, as young people, have had to endure consistent chipping away of the provisions we need within society, from the disappearance of youth clubs, careers services and the merging of youth work with other social services and as a result a reduction in specialist youth work roles. Young people have endured the tripling of university fees, funding to support them in education such as EMA scrapped, alongside housing benefit being stripped from 18-21 year olds.
Young people’s contributions to society and experiences are often downplayed to our disservice. Our current Prime Minister recently ruled out lowering the voting age to 16 if her Party is re-elected into office on June 8th. At the age of 16 we are eligible to join the army, and eligible to pay tax in a country we are not given the right to vote in. A common argument raised here is that young people lack experience. Yet it is counterintuitive to expect anyone other than a young person to have a greater real time experience of what it is like to be a young person. Of course, it is impossible to do this area justice in one blog post, but I hope this highlights just a few things that we must all consider when it comes to empowering young people politically, so that we can have a strong and stable government, changing Britain’s future for the many not the few.
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!
The British Youth Council is launching ‘Our Vision, Our Parliament’, a manifesto which outlines our vision for the next Parliament. The manifesto sets out the six priorities that we want the next government to address the issues of young people including better mental health provision for young people and an opportunity for young people to influence Brexit negotiations.
Young people want the voting age to be lowered to 16, mental health services for young people to be improved, the introduction of a real living wage for everyone, the restoration of funding for youth services, first aid taught in schools and the opportunity to actively participate and meaningfully engage in the Brexit negotiations.
The British Youth Council has written to 17 political parties – including the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, UKIP, SNP and Labour. Each party has been asked to respond with their thoughts on our top six issues. All responses will be published ahead of polling day on June 8th.
The manifesto forms part of our wider General Election campaign calling on politicians to not just talk about young people but to listen to their concerns and do something about them. Following the General Election, the British Youth Council will be lobbying the Government and calling on politicians to keep their promises to young people.
Anna Barker, Chair, British Youth Council said: “It’s imperative that candidates across the country listen to the issues that young people are passionate about and tell young people what they plan to do about their priorities. I’m really looking forward to hearing back from each political party so we can share their responses with young people.”
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 Government have confirmed they have no plans to introduce a lowering voting age of 16 for the General Election which will take place on Thursday 8th June 2017. The British Youth Council are disappointed to learn that yet again 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds will be denied a vote.
In response to a petition calling for the voting age to be lowered, the Government states ‘the House of Commons has debated the question of lowering the voting age in a number of contexts, and has repeatedly voted against lowering it.’ Regrettably, 16 and 17-year-olds will not just miss out on the snap election, but will also miss out on the May elections which will see the election of six newly-created combined authority mayors.
Since the Scottish Independence Referendum, in which 16 and 17-year-olds were given a vote, young people have been turned away from casting their vote on eight separate occasions, without including the numerous by-elections. In 2014, 75% of 16 and 17-year-olds in Scotland voted in the independence referendum, a vote that 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.
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 over 40% of Members of Parliament declaring their support for votes at 16. 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.
Anna Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “It’s disappointing that 16 and 17-year-olds will be denied a chance to vote in one of the most important elections of our lifetime. A precedent was set following the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, and yet eight elections later 16 and 17-year-olds across the UK still haven’t been entrusted with the vote.
“It is extremely regrettable that the common sense argument has not prevailed. When young people feel they have an authentic opportunity to influence change they will take part.”
The Prime Minster has announced her proposal for an early General Election. The election is due to take place on Thursday 8th June 2017, however, Members of Parliament will vote on the proposal in the House of Commons on Wednesday 19th April 2017. In response, the British Youth Council calls on parties and politicians across the country to talk to young people not about them.
Young people are passionate about the future and must be given an authentic opportunity to have a say, influence the debate and set out their priorities. The upcoming election will hold more importance than usual as political parties set out their plans for a ‘Post-Brexit Britain’ and young people must be included in that conversation.
We’ll be reminding parties to keep the promises they have made to young people – especially the five priority issues set out in our 2015 General Election Manifesto ‘Our Parliament. Our Vision’. The issues included improving mental health provision, saving youth services and creating a real living wage for everyone.
The June snap election will also mark yet another election in which 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds will be denied a vote. We call on all parties to ensure that all 16 and 17-year-olds of the future are no longer turned away from the ballot box.
The British Youth Council will be contacting the Government and the Electoral Commission to discuss voter registration for the General Election. We proudly supported sector-wide efforts to get young people registered to vote in the lead up to 2015 General Election and the EU Referendum in 2016. In the meantime, the British Youth Council is urging young people across the country to register to vote as soon as possible to ensure they can have a direct say in the direction of the country.
We are currently working with Parliament to establish how this will impact the Youth Select Committee inquiry on Body Image and the UK Youth Parliament which is due to sit in the House of Commons in November 2017. More details will be released in due course.
Anna Barker, Chair, British Youth Council said: “Politicians across the country must engage young people in a meaningful way ahead of the announced snap election. They have 7 weeks to convince young people that they can deliver on the issues that matter to them. Those who seek to represent us must talk to us and not about us.
“It is however of great concern to us that once again 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds will be denied a vote in an election. Political parties now have a real opportunity to ensure that this is an issue of the past. Empower young people and give them the voice they deserve.
“Lastly, I’d like to call on young people to register to vote, research the issues, and then turn out on June 8th! Young people will be greatly affected by the next Government’s decisions, particularly as our next Government will be tasked with negotiating how we leave the European Union. Let’s send a clear message to politicians in June!”
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.