The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee has expressed disappointment at the government’s continued punitive approach to knife crime. In response to the Youth Select Committee’s knife crime report, the government have laid out their plans to combat the knife crime epidemic.
Responding to the report, the government stated it was ‘determined to tackle the scourge of serious violence’. The Committee has scrutinised the response and welcomes the government’s investment in Violence Reduction Units. It also applauded the government’s commitment to listening to the wider community including young people as part of the Serious Violence Strategy.
In response, the Government committed to tackling violent crime, including addressing key drivers of crime and diverting people away from involvement in serious violence. The Government emphasised targeted investment in early intervention programmes that will help young people, as well as initiatives to support youth workers, ex-offenders and those who have been expelled from school.
However, the committee is concerned to learn the government has ignored many of the recommendations made by the group of young people. Following the response, the committee wishes to reiterate some of their key recommendations and underline the importance of meaningfully engaging young people in decision making.
The committee recommends:
- The Committee were particularly disappointed to see the government taking steps to introduce the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which only serves to extend punitive measures and could take more steps to enshrine preventative measures into law.
- The Government should roll back the extension of stop and search powers until the disproportionate targeting of Black men has been addressed. The Committee is especially concerned that the Serious Violence Reduction Order, which gave police personalised powers to target “proven criminals”, may lead to greater targeting of Black men; this power will make it easier to stop and search with no immediate reason.
- The Government should develop a plan with clear targets and deadlines aimed at tackling the injustices which make a young person more vulnerable to knife crime. The Government has highlighted welcome investment for the youth sector but, in their response to the Committee’s report, has not set out a strategy for how they will address the systemic issues which trap young people in a cycle of violence.
- The Government should commit to long term funding plans of at least 5 years to ensure partners are able to develop effective ways of helping young people at risk of knife crime. The Committee noted that many of the interventions highlighted in their response were only funded over 1-3 years.
- The Government should continue to work to ensure that the views of young people and those with lived experience of knife crime is embedded into the Serious Violence Strategy.
Commenting on the government’s response to the report on knife crime, Rachel Ojo, Chair of the Youth Select Committee, said: “The Youth Select Committee is very pleased to have finally received a response from the Government – over a year after our report was released.
“The issue of violent knife crime is one of the biggest facing young people in this country and we are glad that some of our recommendations have been agreed to. However, we feel the government could be doing much more and we implore the government to act on their commitment, to ensure that tackling knife crime is not only top of their agenda but that preventative measures take priority.”
Knife crime continues to be a significant issue in England and Wales, according to official figures from the Office for National Statistics. Research from the House of Commons Library also showed that knife crime, particularly where it affects young people, has been a ‘persistent and growing concern’ for successive governments.
The response from the Home Office has been issued following the committees thorough inquiry. Knife crime was examined following a UK-wide ballot of 1.1 million young people aged 11 to 18, in which young people declared knife crime their biggest concern. Subsequently the investigation concluded knife crime was fuelled by cuts to important and arguably life-saving public services for vulnerable young people. The committee concluded that socio-economic factors are crucial in making some young people vulnerable to violence, gangs and knife crime and highlighted the need for better services to reach those at risk.
The Youth Select Committee, which is supported by UK Parliament and the British Youth Council, gives young people the opportunity to scrutinise and hold inquiries into topics that matter to them. The Committee is made up of eleven committee members aged 11-18 and include Members of the UK Youth Parliament, Youth Councillors and representatives from each of the devolved nations.
The British Youth Council are delighted to welcome the news, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, formerly Chair of the British Youth Council, has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. Amanda has been awarded a BEM for her continued work uplifting the voices of young people in communities.
Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson BEM, started her tenure as trustee of the British Youth Council in 2017. Amanda was then elected Chair by our members in 2018, finishing her term in 2020. During her 3 years at the youth-led charity, the British Youth Council, she was known for her dedication and service to young people across the country.
Commenting on the award, Jo Hobbs MBE, Chief Executive of the British Youth Council said “I’m thrilled to learn that Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson has been awarded a BEM. Amanda has been an important voice on our board and as part of the youth voice movement. Amanda played a really key role in steering the charity and making sure we could continue to deliver the important work we do to empower young people in the UK.
“Young people across the country are contributing to social and political change – and I’m proud to see such a fantastic ambassador of social action recognised.”
Responding to the news, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson BEM, former Chair of the British Youth Council, said “It was a lovely surprise and privilege to receive an award in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. Whilst it’s always nice to receive personal recognition, to me this is a reflection of the numerous excellent individuals and teams I’ve had the opportunity to work with over the last few years, without whom I absolutely would not have been able to do as much work with and for young people.
“I stand with many others, in calling for a recognition in the name of British excellence, and not the British empire. Until we do so, many worthy citizens – in particular younger people – will understandably feel shut out of a system which should be there to honour their good works..”
The British Youth Council’s trustees, who are aged 16-25, are elected by members and appointed to oversee the strategic and financial direction of the charity. The British Youth Council is currently searching for the next young leaders of social and political change.
Yesterday a former US Police Officer was convicted of murder after the death of African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis. The verdict, which was a historic moment, comes following almost a year of increased protesting seeking to address police brutality across the globe.
The British Youth Council remains angered by the abhorrent murders of Black Americans in the United States. The youth-led organisation called on decision makers to bring an end to anti-Black police brutality in the UK, as part of wider efforts to address the longstanding problems of racism and injustice.
Grassroots campaigners and young people demand an approach that addresses the root causes of the issues facing Black communities. The British Youth Council further believes we must listen to, and support, Black communities who have outlined how we end the global pandemic of anti-Black police brutality.
Speaking on behalf of the charity, Osaro Otobo, Deputy Chair of the British Youth Council said: “The death of George Floyd shook people across the globe, and yesterday’s verdict will serve as a historic moment for people for years to come.
“It’s imperative we do not lose sight of the need to continue to address deep-rooted racism in the United States and here in the United Kingdom. If we are to end anti-black police brutality in the UK, we must take steps dismantle and overhaul a system which enables racism and injustice.”
The charity feels it is reductive for representatives of the UK Government to acknowledge these events without recognises the clear evidence of systemic racism in this country too. With this in mind, the national youth council has called on the UK Government to reject the findings in the report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities and acknowledge the deep-rooted and systemic racism in the UK.
Following a year-long series of projects the NHS England Youth Forum have released reports and resources which encompass their drive to address the issues young people face in healthcare. The reports and resources focus on trans and non-binary rights in healthcare, health inequalities and the experiences of young people with special educational needs and disabilities or long term conditions in educational settings.
Speaking on behalf of the NHS England Youth Forum, Haris Sultan said: “Working collectively with so many passionate young people across the country despite COVID-19 to produce these resources and reports has been so rewarding. The work we’ve been able to produce is direct evidence that when you include young people’s voices at the heart of important and pressing issues, we will not only highlight the issues but find the solutions too.
“We’ve been able to produce three reports on vital issues such as trans and non-binary rights in healthcare, health inequalities for minority ethnic communities and medical education and the experiences of children and young people with special educational needs and/or long-term conditions.
“Young people and professionals working in a healthcare environment now have a set of resources that will lead to young people to having much better experiences and will shape the health system of tomorrow”
The NHS England Youth Forum is made up of 25 young people from across England. The Forum is delivered by the British Youth Council and works in partnership with NHS England to challenge and feed in ideas and solutions regarding health care and services. The British Youth Council established the NHS England Youth Forum in 2014 believing professionals in healthcare could and should do things differently to engage young people in the NHS and to amplify the voice of 15 million under 20-year-olds across England.
UK Youth Parliament launched their national campaigns calling on the government to address the climate emergency, mental health concerns and access to higher education. The year-long campaigns are set to challenge decision makers to do more to ensure young people’s mental health is prioritised in the coming year, to create free, lifelong and inclusive higher education and lastly to stop non-essential single-use plastics by 2025.
A Spokesperson for the UK Youth Parliament said: “Young people have a clear ambitious vision for our future, and it’s important decision makers take action to address our concerns as we commence our recovering from this global pandemic.
“In our vision for a better society young people have been clear they want action on the climate emergency, they wish to see young people’s mental health given the attention it deserves and a government that invests in the young people of today by providing free university education.”
Members of Youth Parliament believe the climate emergency remains one of the biggest threats to our planet. Amongst many other issues, members across the country have agreed plastic pollution will have a serious impact on our current and future generations. The group of outspoken young people have stated national and local leaders in government must act to halt the impact of climate change with young people’s voices at the centre of decision making.
Mental health has remained a priority repeatedly for young people across all nations with the issue reoccurring as a top priority on six occasions within UK Youth Parliament’s annual ballot since 2011. Research from the British Medical Journal revealed deterioration in mental health is clearest among families already struggling, reinforcing concerns from young leaders that mental health must be kept at the heart of the government’s approach to pandemic recovery.
UK Youth Parliament have also joined forced with other campaigners to reiterate the importance of providing free higher education in England. The youth-led pressure group, believe that university is a gateway to success in life and should be freely available to all. The campaign intends to call for reforms to access to universities to prevent young people suffering financial hardship and not reaching their full potential.
Each of the campaigns have come about following UK Youth Parliament’s annual ballot of young people across the UK. The ‘Make Your Mark’ ballot, which was coordinated by the British Youth Council and supported by UK Parliament, concluded young people felt access to higher education should remain free as a priority.
Youth Futures Foundation has announced the membership of its Future Voices Group, 13 young people who will act as ambassadors for the organisation and inform its strategy and work. Based on the principle of ‘nothing about us, without us’, the group, which range in age from 16-24 years, have been recruited from across England to reflect the diversity and breadth of young people’s experiences as they move into work.
Working in collaboration with Youth Futures, the British Youth Council is supporting the group’s development and ongoing training over the next two years.
Explaining why she was motivated to join the group, Lauren Aird, 23, currently studying Health and Social Care in Leeds, said: “When I found the Future Voice Group, I realised I could use every negative experience I had faced to influence real change in how society supports marginalised young people into meaningful work and training.”
The Future Voices Groups will work with the Youth Futures staff team and Board of Directors sitting on the organisation’s advisory panels, working with the grants team to assess programmes, informing research design and attending roundtables with government and other partners as ambassadors and advocates.
Alex Morawski, aged 22, a member of the Youth Futures Foundation’s Board of Non-Executive Directors and Chair of the Future Voices Group, commented: “The Future Voices Group will play a critical role ensuring that youth voice informs all areas of Youth Futures’ work. The group will not just be part of the conversation, but will set the agenda for how we work with others to tackle the root causes of youth unemployment and ensure all young people have fair access to good quality jobs.”
The Future Voices Group are:
Alex Morawski, 22, currently in Edinburgh; Annie Bocock, 22, currently in Lincoln; Cindy Boa,18, currently in south east London; Ed Chaplin, 19, currently in Solihull; Isha Shakir, 21, currently in County Durham; Joel England, 21, currently in Bristol; Lauren Aird, 23, currently in Leeds; Max Spencer-Roe, 19, currently in Liverpool; Naomi Robinson, 24, currently in north London; Plamena Marinova, 17, currently in Norfolk; Roshan Sathy, 22, currently in Norfolk; Subhan Shan, 17, currently in Birmingham; Yemi Adeola, 22, currently in west London.
Anna Smee, CEO of Youth Futures Foundation said: “Young people’s experience and views are absolutely critical to inform our strategy, shape our work and help to deliver the systemic change we need to ensure equality of opportunity regardless of background, ethnicity or disability.”
Sarah Staples, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “Youth Futures’ Future Voices Group brings together a remarkable group of young people who, though from a variety of backgrounds and with very different experiences, share a common passion and purpose to make positive change to help and support others.”
The British Youth Council are calling on the UK government to announce its plans to replace significant funding lost since the UK’s exit from the EU. Following the ratification of the new trading and cooperation agreement with the European Union, organisations in the UK have lost access to Erasmus Plus.
The youth-led charity is calling on Ministers to take steps to address the €1 billion shortfall in funding which will affect many organisations across the UK. More than 4,800 UK-based projects were awarded funding between 2014-2018. The EU programme enabled organisations to support young people to develop new skills, gain vital international experience and boost their employability. UK Youth Parliament and UK Young Ambassadors, which are coordinated by the British Youth Council, have both received significant funding and support from the European programme.
Sarah Staples, Chair, British Youth Council said: “It cannot be right that young people have lost out as a result of this new deal with the European Union. Many UK youth organisations will have to scale back their work with young people or stop their work altogether if this funding is not replaced. The government must prioritise creating some certainty for the future of this funding so young people can continue to have access to these opportunities in post-Brexit Britain.”
The programme was also well-known for student exchanges and enabling young people to study, volunteer and gain work experience. Despite promising otherwise, the UK government will no longer participate in any part of the programme. The government have since announced the inception of the Turing scheme, which is due to commence in September 2021, and will allow young people to study and do work placements in other countries. However, the British Youth Council has concerns that without action and a like-for-like replacement for Erasmus Plus young people in the UK will lose access to the informal educational opportunities which they have been able to access until now.
The national youth council has written to Gavin Williamson CBE MP, Secretary of State for Education and Oliver Dowden CBE MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to urge action so organisations can continue to deliver for young people post-Brexit.
The British Youth Council recognises that the majority of young people voted to remain in the European Union back in 2016. At the time young people were very concerned about employability prospects, opportunities for young people, threats to our education system and rising racism and fascism within our society. The British Youth Council urges the government to work with young people to ensure that they are given a voice on the global stage and to work with them to give them opportunities for education, to build relationships across national and cultural boundaries and to build their employability prospects.
The British Youth Council’s UK Young Ambassadors have conducted an investigation into the challenges for young people trying to secure high-quality jobs. The year-long extensive consultation has found that young people continue to face challenges when trying to access employment.
The report, which was co-funded by the European Union, is published following a series of events, focus groups and a survey. As part of the investigation, the ambassadors looked at the future of work, how education prepares people for the world of work, the social protection that young people need, ensuring jobs for those with additional needs and the role of work experience in accessing the labour market. The group make a series of recommendations to combat what many young people stated was a ‘sense of hopelessness’.
Megan Doherty, UK Youth Ambassador for Northern Ireland said, “Young people face a multitude of issues when they attempt to access the labour market in the UK. If we want to address these issues we must take meaningful steps to combat the concerns young people have highlighted.
“It cannot be right that any young person feels hopeless when thinking about their future career and I hope we’re able to use this report to drive change for our generation of young workers.”
Sarah Staples, Chair, British Youth Council the organisation that runs the programme said: “The work we’ve been doing to platform young people’s voice in Europe remains an important part of ensuring young people have a say in all the decision making.
“Young people across the UK are about to face a very challenging time in the labour market and I’m glad we’ve been able to highlight some of the existing inequalities which will only widen if they’re not combatted as part of our COVID-19 recovery plan.”
Following a nationwide consultation, a free university education has been declared the biggest priority for young people across the UK. The Make Your Mark ballot, which was delivered online, called on young people aged 11-18 to choose which issue they felt was a priority.
More than 180,000 young people took part in the nationwide ballot, showing that when given the opportunity young people will engage in democracy. The Make Your Mark ballot is run by the British Youth Council with support from Local Authorities, schools, UK Parliament, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. This year young people were able to vote for two issues, one issue they wanted the UK government or devolved administrations to prioritise and one issue they wanted local authorities to prioritise.
- Free University – We should invest in the young people of today by providing free university.
- Domestic Violence – lockdown has meant that many people have been trapped in homes that are dangerous for them. Families, and especially young people, could have faced more violence in 2020
Sarah Staples, Chair of the British Youth Council, said: “Make Your Mark is a brilliant opportunity for young people to say tell decision makers what they’re passionate about. It’s really important that young people’s voices are not only heard but acted upon!
“Access to universities and domestic violence are of great importance to young people, now I want to see decision makers take action to address these issues.”
The consultation would usually give young people across the country a say on what is to be debated on the green benches of the House of Commons by Members of Youth Parliament, however, due to the Coronavirus the Commons debate will not take place.
The sitting of Members of Youth Parliament is usually the only time anyone other than MPs debate on the famous green benches with MPs only recently granting access for this new term of Parliament.
Member of Youth Parliament will launch their new priority campaigns in early January 2021.