On Wednesday 12th February, the Youth Select Committee launched its report investigating the knife crime ‘epidemic’ in the UK. The Committee has ruled cuts to important and arguably life-saving services for vulnerable young people have caused a rise in knife crime.
The report, titled ‘Our Generation’s Epidemic: Knife Crime’ is being launched by members of the Committee at a special House of Commons reception in anticipation of a government response. Knife crime was investigated following a 2018 UK-wide ballot of 1.1 million young people aged 11 to 18, in which young people declared knife crime their biggest concern.
Knife crime offences are reportedly at their highest in a decade, according to official figures from the Ministry of Justice. 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 Committee’s key findings and recommendations include:
- Inequality within communities and difference in opportunities provided across the country makes some young people particularly vulnerable to the draw of violence and gangs. 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 should develop long-term funding plans of at least 5 years to develop effective ways of helping and reaching young people at risk of getting involved in knife crime.
- The Government should ensure that the views of young people and those with lived experience of knife crime is embedded into the Serious Violence Strategy.
- School exclusion should be the last step in a long line of disciplinary measures, and schools should be held accountable for their exclusions.
- The Government should roll back the extension of stop and search powers until the disproportionate targeting of Black men has been addressed.
- The Government should clarify its position on short term custodial sentences for young people who carry knives and to consider whether there is another approach that could more effectively deter young people from continued involvement in knife crime.
- The next version of the Serious Violence Strategy should include an increased focus on restorative justice and other informal criminal justice responses as a first step to a young persons involvement in knife crime.
Rachel Ojo, Chair of the Youth Select Committee, said: “The Youth Select Committee are concerned with the government’s increasingly punitive approach to tackling knife crime.
“If the government wishes to confront the fundamental causes of the rise in violent crime amongst young people, it must do more to address and improve the difficult circumstances many young people are facing.”
The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee, which is supported by UK Parliament, 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.
Evidence for the Youth Select Committee’s report on knife crime was gathered in July from a range of expert witnesses, including leaders from the worlds of criminal justice, politics and the charity sector. Just like UK Parliament Select Committees, the Youth Select Committee heard evidence inside a Committee Room in Parliament, which is normally reserved for MPs, and their report will now be sent to the Government for an official response.
The British Youth Council are urging the UK Government to address the concerns of young people in any further Brexit negotiations. The youth-led charity has repeatedly highlighted the importance of including young people in decisions that will affect their future.
The importance of maintaining funding opportunities, such as the Erasmus+ programme, remains a priority for members of the British Youth Council. Despite reassurances from the Government, the British Youth Council also stressed the importance of young people and youth organisations having access to the same opportunities. The statement was made in response to the Commons vote which took place on Wednesday 8th January 2020, which saw Members of Parliament vote against compelling officials to negotiate continuing full membership of the programme.
A spokesperson for the British Youth Council said: “Young people’s voices need to be heard in the future Brexit negotiations, not just as a footnote, but as key stakeholders in the future of the country.
“Moving forward we’d like to see young people more involved in the decision making so we can ensure young people don’t loose out in post-Brexit Britain.”
The charity expressed disappointment at the Government’s decision to ignore calls for a second referendum on the final Brexit Deal. The British Youth Council recognise that in 2016 the majority of young people voted to remain in the European Union. Young people were very concerned about employability prospects, opportunities for young people, threats to our education system and concerns about rising racism and fascism within our society.
Young people aged 16 and 17 were also wrongly excluded from the EU Referendum, according to the national charity. The British Youth Council continues to acknowledge that these young people, all of whom are now eligible to vote, were denied the opportunity to participate despite growing support among politicians from across the political spectrum.
UK Youth Parliament have launched their national campaigns, ‘Protect Our Future’, which demands action to halt the climate emergency and ‘Youth Action on Knife Crime’ which calls on the UK Government to address knife crime as a public health issue. Young people declared climate change a top concern with knife crime also becoming a priority for the second time.
A Spokesperson for the UK Youth Parliament said: “The climate emergency and knife crime are the biggest issues facing young people and politicians must work to address their concerns with some urgency and with young people’s voices at the table.”
The climate change campaign recognises the situation will only be improved by the combination of individual action and government-level change. Members of Youth Parliament believe the government must act to halt the impact of climate change. UK Youth Parliament state young people’s voices should be at the heart of decision making as they will be most affected by climate change in the future.
Knife crime remains a priority for the UK Youth Parliament, following a year highlighting the prevalence of knife crime in the UK. This years campaign will continue to back the Youth Violence Commission’s calls for the Government to adopt a public health approach but will also call on the Government to roll back the use of ‘stop and search’ as a method of addressing knife carrying.
Each campaign was chosen following the UK Youth Parliament’s debate within the House of Commons chamber on Friday 8th November 2019.
UK Youth Parliament have chosen to focus on the climate emergency and knife crime in 2020. The new campaigns have been declared following the UK Youth Parliament’s debate within the House of Commons chamber on Friday 8th November 2019. Climate change was declared a top concern in the UK Youth Parliament’s Make Your Mark ballot of over 800,000 young people.
The annual session was chaired by the newly elected Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP and Deputy Speaker, Dame Eleanor Laing MP over the course of one day. Passionate speeches and eloquent arguments were made on the most important issues affecting young people. During the debates, UK Youth Parliament debated ‘ending knife crime’, ‘mental health’, ‘curriculum for life’, ‘tackling hate crime’ and ‘protect the environment’.
UK Youth Parliament is made up of young people from across the UK, who are elected by 11-18-year olds in constituencies to represent them and use their voice to raise the issues which affect them. At the end of the day, Members of the Youth Parliament walked through the famous voting lobbies of the House of Commons to select climate change as the petition to be debated by MPs in the new Parliament.
The Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle said “It is so important that young people are politically engaged in politics today, and that is why it was my pleasure to preside over the 11th sitting of the UK Youth Parliament.
Not only were the debaters very skilled, I am quite sure many of those taking part will be returning to our green benches in the years to come.”
Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council, the charity which organises UK Youth Parliament, said: “Climate change and knife crime are two of the biggest issues facing young people, according to the UK Youth Parliament’s ballot.
“Members of Youth Parliament took these issues to the heart of our democracy, Parliament, and it is now for MPs and Government to ensure action is taken to address these issues.”
Members of Youth Parliament are set to formally launch the campaigns during their day of action in January 2020. UK Youth Parliament have started to develop campaign actions for the campaigns ahead.
Once again, this year the British Youth Council are taking part in the Big Give Christmas Challenge. Between 12pm Tuesday 3rd December and 12pm Tuesday 10th December, all donations to the British Youth Council will be doubled by match funding!
So, if you give £25, we’ll receive £50, give £50, we’ll receive £100 and so on…
We are looking to raise £2,000 which will then be matched to give a grand total of £4,000!
We want as many supporters as possible to get involved in the campaign to ensure that we empower young leaders to make real change. Whether you support with a donation or simply by sharing our campaign within your networks, everything you do will make a difference. It means that young people can be empowered through our Leadership Development Programme to make their voices heard and create real change.
Read more about how the British Youth Council empowers young leaders on our campaign page and donate to make twice the impact.
Assembly Members in Wales have granted 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote in Welsh Assembly elections and Welsh local council elections. 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 call on the political parties in Westminster 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 23 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. 1.4 million 16 and 17 year olds are being denied a vote in the upcoming snap election on Thursday 12th December 2019.
Speaking on behalf of the British Youth Council, Becca Moore, said: “Today we can celebrate a huge win for the thousands of 16 and 17 year olds in Wales who will now have a chance to vote in Welsh Assembly elections and Welsh local council elections for the first time in 2021.
“We’ll continue to call on politicians in every other part of the UK to ensure 16 and 17 year olds get a vote in all elections. It’s remarkable that we don’t have parity across the UK on this issue. Young people shouldn’t have unequal access to democracy and its imperative this is changed as soon as possible.”
The British Youth Council, which has been campaigning for the enfranchisement of 16 and 17 year olds since 1992, will call on the House of Commons to re-open the debate and introduce legislation to ensure equal voting rights following the General Election.
The British Youth Council is launching ‘Our Parliament, Our Vision’, a manifesto which outlines our vision for the next UK Parliament. The manifesto sets out the four priorities that we want the next Parliament to address the issues of young people including climate change and mental health.
Young people want the next Parliament to do more to achieve the zero net emissions and tackle climate change, reduce the voting age to 16, put an end to poverty in our communities and recognise that our minds matter. The priorities were established through a process of consulting young people across the UK about the issues they cared about.
The British Youth Council has written to 17 political parties – including the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, SNP and Labour. Each party has been asked to respond with their thoughts on our top four issues. The youth-led charity is due to publish the responses ahead of polling day on Thursday 12th December 2019.
A spokesperson for the British Youth Council said: “Candidates across the UK, seeking to represent young people, including those that can’t vote, should listen to the issues that young people are passionate about and tell young people what they plan to do address their priorities”
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.
Following the Government’s statement announcing its intention to host an early General Election, the British Youth Council has launched calls for each political party to address the concerns of young people.
The British Youth Council are keen to stress that young people care about their future and should have their issues discussed and addressed. The upcoming election has particular significance because the uncertainty of Brexit continues to loom. The youth-led charity has also made it clear young people should be provided reassurance over their futures in the coming months.
A spokesperson for the British Youth Council said: “Politicians have a duty to ensure young people’s concerns are not only listened to but addressed.
“Over the coming weeks, candidates for Member of Parliament will be canvassing their future constituents and it’s imperative that politicians make some direct pledges to young people that are kept and actioned.”
The latest developments have also sparked renewed demands for a lower voting age to be introduced. The British Youth Council has a longstanding belief that 16 and 17 year olds should not be held back from voting in any election or referendum. 1.5 million 16 and 17 year olds are set to miss out on visiting the ballot box again, despite the introduction of votes at 16 in Scotland and plans to introduce similar legislation in Wales.
Responding to calls for a lower voting age, the spokesperson went on to say: “It’s a real shame that 16 and 17 year olds are likely to miss out yet another General Election.
“It seems laughable that we still don’t have parity across the UK on this issue.”
We will be in contact with the Government and the Electoral Commission in the immediate future to discuss voter registration so we can ensure young people are engaged in this election. In previous elections, we have worked with sector partners to encourage young people to make their mark at polling stations.
Moving forward the British Youth Council will be urging young people to register to vote now to avoid missing out on having a crucial say in the next direction of the country.
Following a nationwide consultation, climate change has been declared the biggest priority for young people across the UK. The Make Your Mark campaign, which was sponsored by Fledglink, called on young people aged 11-18 to choose which issue they felt was a priority.
The ballot has seen more than 825,000 young people take part, maintaining the campaign as one of the largest consultations of young people in UK history. 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.
The five issues that have been prioritised are:
- Protect the Environment – We believe that we have a responsibility to protect the environment from the effects of climate change for the next generation; and that the Government should look towards carbon neutral alternatives.
- Put an end to Knife crime – Too many young people’s lives are lost to knife crime; the Government need to do more to help end the knife crime epidemic.
- Mental Health – Mental health services should be improved with young
- people’s help; and should be available in schools..
- Tackling Hate Crime – We should be educated on how to report hate crime. We believe the Government should invest in creating safe spaces that promote unity in communities.
- Curriculum to Prepare Us for Life – Schools should cover topics like finance, sex and relationship education and politics.
Speaking on behalf of UK Youth Parliament, Samira-Caterina Monteleone, said: “The climate emergency is a problem that will affect young people more than any other generation. We know this issue cannot be ignored. This is young people sending an unambiguous message: this Government must take steps to protect our environment.”
Knife crime was voted the most important issue for young people in 2018, and remains a critical issue as knife crime hits a new record high. Members of Youth Parliament have been campaigning on knife crime throughout 2019, calling on the Government to take urgent action.
Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council, the charity which commissioned the consultation, said: “It’s truly amazing to have so many young people take part in the Make Your Mark ballot.
Young people have declared climate change, knife crime, mental health and a reform curriculum as their top priorities. Decision makers must now take step to address these issues directly.”
The consultation gives 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. Each issue will be discussed in the chamber on Friday 8th November at the UK Youth Parliament’s ninth sitting.
(Pictured: Members of Youth Parliament, during the 2018 House of Commons Sitting)
The sitting of Members of Youth Parliament is still 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. The debates will be concluded with a vote to decide on which issues should become their priority campaign in 2020.
Following consultation with young people, the Work Experience Action Group has launched their Work Experience Toolkit for small and medium businesses in England. The newly formed focus group has created a series of resources which are due to be distributed amongst Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and young people’s hubs outlining what quality work experience looks like and how to make it accessible to young people.
The group is made up of 6 young people aged 16-25, who have a range of experiences with work and education. The group is bound together by their commitment to ensuring young people have access to quality work experience opportunities. The report has been made possible by a grant from the People’s Postcode Trust: a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
Through consultation with other young people and with support from The Careers & Enterprise Company, the Work Experience Action Group developed 5 aspects that make up a quality work experience placement, for SMEs to consider. These areas included preparation and planning, creating an enabling and inclusive environment, skills development, feedback and evaluation and follow-up.
The project was established following the Youth Select Committee’s inquiry into access to work experience last year. The committee of young people found there was a multitude of inequalities that affected young people’s access to good quality work experience across the UK. It also concluded young people from a rural area or from a low socio-economic background are amongst those that were facing a disproportionate lack of access. Employers from SMEs also expressed how they are willing to give good quality work experience but find that they are lacking the comprehension to construct an accessible environment to support all young people.
Commenting on the toolkit, Amanda
Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair of the British Youth Council, said: “We know there
are unacceptable levels of inequality affecting young people’s access to good
quality work experience across the UK.
“The Work Experience Action Group have developed a toolkit which will enable more employers to not only make their work experience placements more accessible but will also ensure they can provide high quality opportunities.”
Creating Work Experience hubs for 11-18 year olds was one of the top issues in the UK Youth Parliament’s 2017 Make Your Mark ballot. The ballot saw almost 950,000 young people vote on issues that mattered most to them.