We have made the very reluctant decision to pause UK Youth Parliament programme in Northern Ireland, while we seek sustainable funding. This will mean we will not run elections for Members of Youth Parliament, for the term starting in March 2017.
We are immensely proud of our partnership with Northern Ireland Youth Forum, the achievements of this cross-community initiative, and the Members of Youth Parliament. In 2011, we delivered the first ever youth elections I Northern Ireland. This year we ran a record-breaking turnout with 37 schools receiving Democracy Awards. These elections and support for the Members of Youth Parliament in Northern Ireland are the only ones that the British Youth Council directly fund and run in the UK. For the past few years, this has come from the British Youth Council reserves. As a comparison, youth elections in Scotland, Wales and England are all funded and supported by statutory agencies, similar to adult elections.
This past year we were unsuccessful in securing funding, but made the decision to run a reduced programme. However, we recognise that this is not a sustainable option. So have come to the conclusion that we now need to communicate to stakeholders that the programme in Northern Ireland is being paused while we seek to secure funding.
In 2015, thanks to securing funding, we were able to involve the 18 Member of Youth Parliaments, in the UK programme as never before: Attending the UK wide Youth Voice Leadership Programme residential in Kent along with 300 other youth representatives as part of their induction, taking part in the Annual Sitting debating policy and receiving personalised training, meeting with MLAs, hosting a reception in Stormont, lobbied MPs, consulted over 41,000 young people, and debated in the House of Commons Chamber.
This pause of the programme in Northern Ireland comes at a time when the Welsh Assembly has just announced it will be proposing a new bill to restore young assembly in Wales which will support the representation of Welsh young people. In previous years we had support from the Northern Ireland Youth Council, and Politics Plus.
As a youth-led charity, the British Youth Council remain very committed to a UK Youth Parliament with representation from all of the UK. We are therefore putting plans in place, to take a year out with a view to securing funding and being able to offer young people a return to a programme similar to 2015.