Blogs and news about lowering the voting age to 16.
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.
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
For media enquires or to interview a Member(s) of Youth Parliament please contact:
Rhammel Afflick, Communications & Media Officer
email@example.com | +44 (0)20 7250 8376 | +44 (0)79 32 505 214
Notes to Editors
- UK Youth Parliament provides opportunities for 11-18-year-olds to use their elected voice to bring about social change through meaningful representation and campaigning.
- UK Youth Parliament is hosted and managed by the charity The British Youth Council. The British Youth Council is the National Youth Council of the UK. A youth-led charity, we empower young people aged 25 and under to influence and inform the decisions that affect their lives. We support young people to get involved in their communities and democracy locally, nationally and internationally, making a difference as volunteers, campaigners, decision-makers and leaders.
- ‘Votes at 16’ is the UK Youth Parliament’s 2017 campaign following a vote by Members of Youth Parliament at their House of Commons Sitting on Friday 11th November 2016.
- The Make Your Mark took place from Friday 12th August and Wednesday 5th October 2016. Young people were able to take part in online and via various printed ballots.
- Media spokespeople are available on request at various points throughout the campaign. To organise interviews please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
As a Member of Youth Parliament, I have the privilege of representing the views of young people and communicating them to visionaries and influencers. Following the Youth Parliament’s recent debates in the House of Commons, Tofumni, Oscar and myself, as Members of Youth Parliament, were invited to meet with David Lidington, Leader of the House of Commons, and Chris Skidmore, Minister for the Constitution. We sat down, exchanging greetings brief recollections from the events that took place in the House of Commons just a number of days before. We then began to discuss the issues at hand, starting with Votes at 16. Us MYPs expressed the want for us to take part in democracy and make politics more accessible. We raised the point about the confusion caused by the disparity of privileges received at 16 and 18, and we said that, because of how we are informed and how much we are aware, we are ready. We used the example of Scotland having the vote and Chris Skidmore, Minister for the Constitution, mentioned Wales’ government is considering lowering the age. However, he also mentioned how the Government is bound by their manifesto, which isn’t in support of Votes at 16. That’s not a reason to stop pushing, we concluded, as we are closer than ever before.
We also discussed the prospects of “a curriculum to prepare us for life” and how it would look in our schools. We communicated that the quality of our PSHE lessons aren’t up to where they need to be, and the Leader of the House agreed. Since I spoke about this issue at the dispatch box, I mentioned the lack of teacher’s training in PSHE, and that if there’s going to be quality PSHE teaching, there has to be quality courses so that they can teach us effectively. We also conversed about the idea of putting life skills at the forefront of our curriculum by having questions about life skills in the exams. For example, a health unit in Biology, a CV writing unit in English, a finance unit in Maths and so on; we felt implementing life skills this way is practical and effective, and research after the meeting shows this is already in place in some schools in the country.
Finally, our meeting moved to the topic of the potential of a kinder, better democracy, where 16 year olds can vote; where there’s not as much animosity in PMQ’s and the point is addressed, not the person; where the House of Commons is in the shape of a circle, not the (at times) confrontational current setup. The Leader of the House and The Minister of the Constitution listened attentively as the vision from the younger generation was spoken.
Overall, the meeting went very well! For me, it represented the views of young people rising up further on our government’s priority and it represents a shift in the attitude towards young people. From here, my hope is that we keep building, so the views of young people are heard and acted upon.
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.
The British Youth Council today called for all 18-25 years to turnout and vote for youth, especially the undecided, to vote on behalf of those under eighteen who want to vote but cannot.
Jon Foster, Chair, British Youth Council said “All our voices need to be heard, and all year round, not just in and out at elections. So turnup turnout – Vote for Youth on Thursday 23rd.”
The British Youth Council has been campaigning since 1992 for equal votes for 16 and 17 years with the rest of the population age groups, and more recently for this referendum, where we wanted equality with the Scottish independence vote. Jon went on to say “We want to highlight the fact that 16 and 17 year-olds could and should have been allowed to vote. We also believe that high youth turnout will add weight to the youth mandate and make all youth voices more likely to be heard in the future. Turnout equals #votepower and if we vote today they will listen tomorrow
“We are meant to be a United Kingdom with equal rights – except the right to vote! Even after the result, in or out, we demand age equality in all elections and parity across the four nations of the United Kingdom.”
Commenting on engaging young people in the politics, Ife Grillo, Vice Chair Campaigns & Communications, British Youth Council said “The future belongs to young people, and this referendum is about shaping the future of our country. Whatever side you are on, if there is a high turnout amongst younger voters, then you will strengthen your mandate to be heard in a post-referendum Europe.
“During this campaign, both sides have tried to engage young people and what’s important is that this continues after the election. Young people lose faith in politics and elections because they feel that politicians don’t really care about their opinion. Whatever the result, young people need to be at the forefront of what happens next.”
British Youth Council calls for equal voting rights at 16 in UK.
Young people aged 16 and 17 year olds will vote in Scottish Parliamentary elections and Scottish Local Council elections for the first time today (Thursday 5th May 2016). The British Youth Council and Votes at 16 Coalition are celebrating the historical moment as a landmark in the campaign for Votes at 16, but calls on the Government in Westminster and other devolved nations to make this an equal right in all elections in the UK.
Lowering the voting age continues to be a priority for the British Youth Council and after over 20 years of campaigning for a lower voting age in all UK elections and referenda we’ll continue to call on politicians to restore equal parity of franchise for young people in others parts of the country.
Jon Foster, Chair, British Youth Council said: “Today we can celebrate a huge win for the thousands of 16 and 17 year olds in Scotland who will now have a chance to vote in Scottish Parliamentary elections and Scottish Local Council elections for the first time following the precedent set by the Scottish Referendum back in 2014. We’ll be continuing to call on politicians in every other part of the UK to ensure 16 and 17 year olds get a vote in all elections!”
Katie Burke MSYP, Vice Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament who are members of the Votes at 16 Coalition said: “Today is a historic day in Scotland, and a massive step in the realisation of young people’s rights. Our parliament has campaigned for Votes at 16 since our formation in 1999, and I am overjoyed that our voices have been heard here in Scotland. However, our fellow 16 and 17-year-olds throughout the UK haven’t been afforded this same right, nor will Scottish 16 and 17-year-olds be able to vote in the upcoming EU Referendum or UK elections. We will continue to make the case for Votes at 16 on a UK-wide level until this contradiction is resolved.”
The British Youth Council, which has been campaigning for the enfranchisement of 16 and 17 year olds since 1992, will now call on the House of Commons and the National Assemblies/Parliament to re-open the debate and introduce legislation to ensure equal voting rights. In 2014 the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee on Votes at 16 recommended that measures could and should be introduced, and in 2015 campaigned for the vote to be lowered in the EU referendum. This followed the precedent set by the Scottish independence referendum when lowering the franchise engaged a new generation in politics with impressive voter registration and turnout.
British Youth Council members have chosen to prioritise mental health, votes at 16, and youth services as campaigns for 2016. During each year-long campaign, we’ll be building on the successes of our current mental health campaign, refreshing our campaign effort to save youth services across the country and reminding the Government why we think it’s important 16 and 17 year olds are given the opportunity to vote in all UK public elections and referenda.
The three issues, which were voted as priorities by our members, will build on the work we’ve done with partners to advance each campaign to a new level of debate. Our mental health campaign, which has included an in-depth inquiry into led by the Youth Select Committee on ‘Young People’s Mental Health’, will continue to target Government and local commissioners for further funding and better services for children and young people up and down the country. The Government has promised a formal response.
In our campaign to lower the voting age to 16, we aim to remind politicians of the precedent set by the Scottish Referendum which saw record levels of 16 and 17 year olds across Scotland voting for the very first time in history. This year we’re hoping the common sense argument will prevail – that alongside a ‘curriculum for life’ with citizenship/political education and easy voter registration, votes at 16 is good for the future of democracy. We believe there is growing support amongst Members of Parliament, as this becomes an question of equal rights (with Scotland) as well as good governance. You can find out more about votes at 16 and the coalition on our brand new website.
Lastly, in our campaign to save youth services, we aim to work closely with the national and local government to ensure that youth services are a core priority across the country despite the cuts to local authority budgets. We will also explore and encourage local partnerships involving young people to propose pragmatic solutions where there is unmet need.
Commenting on the new campaigns, Jon Foster, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “It’s absolutely imperative that we continue to be a loud voice on mental health and wellbeing, lowering the voting age to 16 and youth services. We’ll need to work hard to ensure all three issues are kept fully on the agendas of decision makers in the country because these are the issues that young people really care about!”
In the coming months we’ll be forming new partnerships and campaign actions to ensure mental health and wellbeing, the voting age and save our services are highlighted at every opportunity throughout the year.
The British Youth Council and Votes at 16 Coalition are disappointed to see the Government have blocked the Lords proposal to include 16 and 17 year olds a vote in the “In Out” EU Referendum due to be taken in 2017. The block comes after a sustained campaign calling on the Government to follow the precedent set by the Scottish Referendum which saw record levels of voting from young people.
The latest setback in the House of Commons saw Members of Parliament vote 303 to 253 to reject the Lords amendment to the European Union Referendum Bill in an attempt to block any further moves to give 16 and 17-year-olds the vote despite the Votes at 16 Coalition’s continuous calls for their inclusion since the bill was tabled by the Government in March 2015.
Ife Grillo, Vice Chair of Campaigns and Communications, British Youth Council said: “It’s really sad to see the Government have blocked the Lords amendment which was set to see 1.5 million 16 and 17 year olds enfranchised for the EU Referendum! Time and time again we’re having to go backwards and forwards on this debate and it’s about time we did what was right for young people living in the UK! This is a late but necessary change in our voting system”
In reaction to the Government’s rejection of the amendment, Jon Foster, Chair, British Youth Council said: “The Government have now resorted to using the cost of the introduction of votes at 16 as their main argument for not lowering the voting age for the EU Referendum but surely when young people are knocking on the door of democracy its worth every penny of investment! Young people should be at the table for this historical vote and it’s now clear from the precedent set by Scottish 16 and 17 year olds that young people are more than ready to take part!”
The British Youth Council has been campaigning for the enfranchisement of 16 and 17 year olds for 17 years and we’ll be continuing to push the Lords to rebel against despite the Commons’ ‘financial privilege’. As noted in UCL’s Report ‘Demystifying Financial Privilege’ the Lords could still table similar amendments in an attempt to force the bill to include a lower voting age.
Support across the UK for votes at 16 is building up, particular after last years Scottish Referendum which saw 80% voter registration and 75% voter turnout among 16 and 17 year olds, discarding arguments reporting a lack of appetite for involvement among young people. The Youth Select Committee’s report which was released in the Autumn of 2015 ruled that now was the time to implement measures for all public elections and referendums and further to that we have the recommendations of the Electoral Commission, which after careful analysis of the Scottish Referendum, outlines what should be considered in the event the franchise is amended to include 16 and 17 year olds means we have both the demand and expertise to repeat this again for the EU Referendum. Not to mention the clear support from the Scottish Government, National Assembly of Wales, the Northern Ireland Assembly and a growing number of English local authorities which it is making it untenable to deny 16 and 17 year olds the vote during any other elections or public referendums.
For more information or to speak to our media spokespeople please contact the press office.
Votes at 16 in the EU referendum is now one step closer following a vote in the House of Lords, where 293 Lords voted in favour of an amendment to extend the franchise in the EU Referendum Bill. The Votes at 16 Coalition will now turn its focus back on the House of Commons as MPs prepare to accept or reject the amendment put forward by the Lords.
The British Youth Council, which has been campaigning for the enfranchisement of 16 and 17 year olds since 1998, have been calling on politicians to ensure 16 and 17 year olds are enfranchised in the “In Out” EU Referendum set to be taken in 2017 throughout the year with support from politicians on both sides of the Commons growing.
Ife Grillo, Vice Chair of Campaigns and Communications, British Youth Council said: “We at the British Youth Council have consistently called for 16 and 17year olds to be included in the EU Referendum and it’s great to know that common sense has finally prevailed! Earlier this year MPs decided to deny them the vote, and it’s great to see the House of Lords battling them on their poor judgement!”
“Young people have been knocking on the door of democracy for decades and Scottish 16 and 17 year olds have already proven that we’re ready during the referendum last year, that’s proof enough that young people are more than capable of taking part in this historical vote!”
Megan Dunn, President of NUS, a member of the Votes at 16 Coalition said: “Young people will bear the consequences of the EU referendum vote so it is only right that they should be able to have their say – so it’s very positive that peers have agreed with this common-sense case.
“The pressure is now on MPs to also recognise the right for young people to have their voice heard. Students across the country will be calling on their MPs to make sure they vote the right way when the bill returns to the House of Commons.”
The British Youth Council strongly believes that after decades of changes in our attitudes and vales resulting in amendments to the enfranchisement of more and more people, like women in 1918 and 18-24 year olds in 1969, that lowering the voting age is a late but necessary change in our voting system.
Proof that the UK is ready for votes at 16 is mounting up, particular after last years Scottish Referendum which saw 80% voter registration and 75% voter turnout among 16 and 17 year olds, discarding arguments reporting a lack of appetite for involvement among young people. Most young people uncertainty or resistance is about their ignorance of the political system and who best to vote for – which Scotland has shown can be addressed by clear and prepared education in schools and accessible media – which is obvious and why both young people and adults in Scotland are now strongly in favour. With this clear support from the Scottish Government, as well as the National Assembly of Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly it is becoming untenable to deny 16 and 17 year olds the vote during any other elections or public referendums.