Following the UK Youth Parliament’s takeover of the House of Commons chamber, the British Youth Council is saddened to learn of the abuse being aimed at Members of Youth Parliament on social media. The British Youth Council feel this abuse has no place in political debate.
On Friday 9th November 2018, Members of the UK Youth Parliament gathered from across the UK to debate in the House of Commons chamber. Ending knife crime, mental health, ‘equal pay, for equal work’, tackling homelessness and ‘votes at 16’ were all topics of debate. Each topic was chosen in a record-breaking ballot of more than 1.1 million young people. At the end of the day, they marked the Representation of the People Act 1918 which granted the vote to some women and all men.
Commenting on the abuse, Jo Hobbs, Chief Executive of the British Youth Council, the charity which coordinates the UK Youth Parliament said “The British Youth Council will always encourage political debate. We feel it’s imperative young people are given the opportunity to discuss their opinions. Which are valid and should be listened to. We believe in a world in which every young person is empowered to create social and political change.
“Staff at the British Youth Council were alarmed to learn about the tirade of abuse aimed at Members of Youth Parliament. We feel this abuse is wrong and should be condemned publicly.
“We were saddened to learn that some of the abuse contained threats of violence and homophobic language which should have no place on social media platforms. The British Youth Council is committed to the implementation of equal opportunities throughout its work. In its meetings, activities, services and as an employer, we feel no person should be discriminated against.
“The British Youth Council affirms that it has a role in combating discrimination throughout society, as all forms of discrimination form a barrier to participation. It also calls upon its member organisations to actively address and positively support these issues within their own structures.
“We are proud of the diversity of the UK Youth Parliament. Members of Youth Parliament widely represent the changing face of modern Britain. 55% of the Members of the Youth Parliament are female, 30% are from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background, 24% identify as lesbian, bisexual or gay and 22% consider themselves disabled.”
Jo went on to say: “We also found comments levelled at the appearance of Members of Youth Parliament, revealing much more still needs to be done by social media platforms to ensure this kind of abuse is not deemed acceptable or normalised.
“Last year the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee ruled body dissatisfaction was having a detrimental effect on young people with long-lasting consequences for health, education and wider life outcomes. Whilst it was clear social media companies had taken some steps to mitigate the negative effects of their platforms, they are still not taking their responsibilities seriously enough.”
In November 2017, the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee concluded body dissatisfaction causing long-lasting consequences for young people.
The British Youth Council would encourage anyone receiving abuse on social media to make reports to the social media platforms using the tools available. The British Youth Council would also encourage people to make reports to their local police service if they feel the abuse amounts to a criminal offence.
The British Youth Council have made a series of reports to Twitter detailing the abuse, threats and homophobic language being used.
Anyone experiencing bullying online or abuse should use the support centre developed by the Diana Award which offers advice and support on a number of issues. The Diana Award is urging schools to celebrate what makes pupils unique during Anti-Bullying Week which takes place from Monday 12th-17th November 2018. Anti-Bullying Week is designed to inspire young people to stand up to bullying in schools and to create a robust anti-bullying culture that is safe for all.
UK Youth Parliament has chosen to focus on lowering the voting age to 16 and knife crime in 2019. The decision came following the UK Youth Parliament’s tenth House of Commons debate which was chaired by the Speaker, Rt Hon John Bercow MP. Knife crime was declared a top concern in the UK Youth Parliament’s Make Your Mark ballot of over 1.1 million young people.
Votes at 16 continues to be an important issue for young people and has been voted as a campaign priority for the third year in a row. Alex McDermott, Member of Youth Parliament for Derbyshire who spoke on the issue of lowering the voting age said “Votes at 16 continues to be high on the agenda for young people.
“Young people have spoken out on this issue for long enough. It’s time for the Government to listen to young people and lower the voting age to 16”
Imogen White, Member of Youth Parliament for Member of Youth Parliament for Essex, who spoke on a knife which was chosen as the priority campaign for England, said: “Knife crime is the largest concern of young people across the UK. Young people shouldn’t have to fear for their lives or feel they have to turn to violent weapons just to feel safe in their communities.
“The knife crime epidemic is crippling our nation and the Government must do everything in their power to protect young people.”
Members of Parliament from across the House of Commons responded to the news.
Norman Lamb MP, Member of Parliament for North Norfolk said: “Soaring knife crime is destroying the safety and fabric of our communities, with teenagers and young people most at risk.
“The number of fatal stabbings rose by 16% in England and Wales between 2015 and 2017, while new NHS figures show that 13 people on average were admitted to hospital every day following a knife attack last year.
“The Government must do more to tackle this crisis, but extra policing alone is not the answer. We need a public health approach that tackles the root causes of violent crime, including investment in community services designed to prevent youth violence and support those who are at risk of offending. This is a major concern for young people across the country and I welcome that the UK Youth Parliament is treating it as a priority.”
Vicky Foxcroft MP, Member of Parliament for Lewisham, who attended the House of Commons Sitting said: “I was pleased to hear that the UK Youth Parliament were discussing knife crime in Parliament.
“In September I was fortunate enough to meet London members of the Youth Parliament in Westminster to discuss the work we’ve been doing on the Youth Violence Commission.
“Their knowledge and passion on how we tackle knife crime was so clear. They recognised the importance of early intervention and prevention and showed a real understanding of how the public health model works and what it can deliver.
“Their views on how knife crime affects them and their communities should rightly be heard by all politicians.”
Ross Thomson MP, Member of Parliament for Aberdeen South, said:
“It is striking that knife crime has emerged as the top issue identified by young people in this survey.
“In my constituency of Aberdeen South, a teenager was killed at school in an incident involving a knife three years ago.
“It is up to MPs from all parties to do what they can to reduce the risk of future incidents.
“That means educating young people about the dangers of knives and changing the law where appropriate. For example, I have been supportive of moves to tighten up legislation around the sale of weapons online.
“This is an issue where MPs from across the house should be working together to address this growing problem affecting our young people.”
Members of Youth Parliament are set to formally launch the campaigns during their day of action in January 2019. UK Youth Parliament will now begin to develop campaign actions for the campaigns ahead.
The British Youth Council are delighted to welcome new minister for Civil Society, Mims Davies MP, who will take on responsibility for youth policy at the Office for Civil Society following the resignation of Tracey Crouch MP.
The Government have ignored calls from the British Youth Council and Members of Parliament from across the House of Commons for a dedicated youth minister. The British Youth Council will be writing to the Minister highlighting continued concerns with the size of the brief which will reportedly include other responsibilities. Since 2010, the Government have failed to appoint a Minister responsible solely for young people, despite repeated requests for a minister which can champion the voices of young people.
Lewis Addlington-Lee, Deputy Chair of the British Youth Council said: “It’s a real shame that the Government have decided to ignore calls for a Youth Minister.
“In order for young people’s voices to be championed effectively across Government, it is important this brief is made smaller. We can’t see how this can be carried out when the Minister will continue to have so many responsibilities”
The British Youth Council will also use this as an opportunity to draw attention the latest ballot of young people which concluded knife crime was a top concern for young people living in the UK. The nation-wide ballot of 11-18 year olds saw more than 1.1 million young people take part making it the largest consultation of its kind in UK history.
The British Youth Council currently work with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to deliver the Youth Voice programme. The programme aims to give young people the opportunity to influence public decision-making at a local and national level.
Commenting on the appointment of the new minister, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council said: “The British Youth Council is looking forward to working with the new minister to ensure the Government remains committed to young people’s voices being heard right across the Government.
“This is a crucial time for the country, it’s vital young people are part of the decision making that is taking place at all levels of the Government.”
On Friday 9th November, Members of the Youth Parliament will debate topics as diverse as knife crime, votes at 16, and homelessness, as part of their annual session in the House of Commons Chamber. Over 250 Members of Youth Parliament from across the UK will participate in the Commons debate.
The sitting will become the ninth session of the UK Youth Parliament in the Commons Chamber and the topics for debate were selected through the annual Make Your Mark campaign. This was the UK’s largest ever ballot of young people, with over 1.1 million young people aged 11-18 voting. The campaign was coordinated by the British Youth Council with the support of local authorities, the UK Parliament, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
The debates raise the curtain on this year’s UK Parliament Week (12-18 November), an annual festival of events intended to connect communities across the UK with their democracy.
Morning session 11:00am -12:50pm
- Votes for 16 and 17 year olds in all public elections
Give 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote in all elections/
- Tackling Homelessness
Every person should have a place to live and the opportunity to live comfortably. Let’s make it happen and put a stop to homelessness.
- Equal Pay, Equal Work.
Give young people the same amount of pay, if they are doing the same work as adults in the same job.
Afternoon session 1:40pm- 4:00pm
- Mental Health
Mental health services should be improved with young people’s help; and should be available in schools.
- 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.
At the close of debates, Members of Youth Parliament will vote to decide which of the topics will become the focus of their 2019 national campaigns. Members of Youth Parliament will then mark the 1918 Representation of the People Act which granted the vote to some women and all men.
The debates will be streamed live, with a 20 minute delay, on parliamentlive.tv and UK Parliament’s Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Highlights from the debates will also be broadcast on BBC Parliament from 12noon on Saturday 10th November.
The session will be presided over by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Rt Hon John Bercow MP, who said: “I am very pleased to be welcoming Members of the Youth Parliament to the House of Commons for the 9th time. This annual event is now a well- established and important moment in the parliamentary calendar. At such turbulent times it is vital that the voices of our future are heard – and the fact that over a million people voted for the motions to be debated by the MYPs, shows that young people are engaging fully and enthusiastically with the democratic process.”
Marcus Dyke, Member of Youth Parliament for Kingston upon Thames, said “Members of Youth Parliament will takeover the Commons chamber to debate the top concerns of young people in the UK.
“These issues were chosen in a nationwide ballot of over 1.1 million young people. Their voices must be heard! It’s imperative that moving forward, young people’s views are not only given a platform but are listened to by decision makers across the country.”
Members of Youth Parliament will also be joined by Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP, Leader of the House of Commons, and Valerie Vaz MP, Shadow Leader of the House of the Commons, who will both speak from the despatch box in recognition of the UK Youth Parliament being the only external group allowed to hold debates in the House of Commons Chamber.
Andrea Leadsom MP commented: “At such a crucial time for our country, we need to hear the voices of young people, who will help steer our future.
“UK Youth Parliament is a fantastic opportunity for young people to raise the issues they care about most, right in the heart of our democracy. I know that MPs in Parliament and Ministers in Whitehall will listen carefully to what MYPs have to say.”
Valerie Vaz MP said: “I am delighted to welcome and to hear Members of the Youth Parliament to the House for the 9th time. Over a million young people voted to select the topics.
“From mental health to promoting democracy and tackling the scourge of knife crime, these are all extremely pertinent issues, and I look forward to an engaging debate which I am sure will be of the usual high standard.”
Commenting on the joint-letter, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council said: “The British Youth Council welcome Cross-Party support for a dedicated Minister for Young People.
“We feel its imperative the Government use this as an opportunity to make this portfolio smaller. Young people’s voices should be heard by decision-makers at every level of the Government and we can’t see how this can be prioritised in such a large brief.”
The British Youth Council has issued a statement calling for the Government to appoint a Youth Minister.
Cross-Party group of MPs write to Prime Minister asking for dedicated Minister for Young People
25 MPs have put their name to a letter sent to the Prime Minister asking for a dedicated Minister for Young people after the resignation of Tracey Crouch MP.
Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, SNP and Green MP’s all signed the letter which was sent to the Prime Minister this afternoon.
Currently, the Minister responsible for Young People takes on a number of other roles including gambling, sport, civil society and loneliness. MPs believe that this brief is too big for anyone minister to be across properly.
The lead signature on the letter is Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP who is the current Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Youth Affairs, said;
“Tracey was a fine Minister but even a superhuman couldn’t handle the workload expected of that multi-portfolio and with the current crisis we’re having with youth crime and violence we need a dedicated minister for Young People.
“We are not trying to score party political point here this is a group of cross-party MPs who simply want what has existed under previous Labour and Conservative Governments, that is a dedicated Minister for Young People.”
The British Youth Council is sad to learn that, Tracey Crouch MP, has resigned as Sports & Civil Society Minister. The former Minister, who has held the brief since June 2017, played a crucial in ensuring young people’s voices were built into the Civil Society Strategy. In response to the news, the British Youth Council has reignited calls for the Government to appoint a Youth Minister.
Commenting on the resignation of Tracey Crouch MP, Jo Hobbs, Chief Executive of the British Youth Council said: “I’d like to thank Tracey Crouch for being a fantastic advocate of youth voice throughout her tenure as Sports & Civil Society Minister.
“Tracey was pivotal in ensuring youth voice was built into the Civil Society Strategy.”
It has been a longstanding view of the British Youth Council that the Government should appoint a Minister solely responsible for young people – a role which has not existed since 2010. The Government have ignored previous calls for a youth minister, despite attempts to highlight concerns with the size of the brief.
Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council said: “The British Youth Council have repeatedly highlighted concerns with the ever-growing ministerial brief.
“We firmly believe the Government should appoint a Youth Minister who can champion the voices of young people at the heart of Government.
In August the Government formally committed to reviewing the guidance which sets out the statutory duty placed on local authorities to provide appropriate youth services.
Amanda went on to say: “The British Youth Council will be seeking reassurances from the Office for Civil Society, ensuring it remains firmly committed to reviewing the guidance for local authorities on youth provisions.”
More than one million young people declared ending knife crime a top priority for young people living in the UK. Make Your Mark called on teenagers to choose which issue they felt was a priority. Last week it was revealed that knife crime had risen by 12% in just a year. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said police recorded almost 40,000 knife or “sharp instrument” offences in the 12 months leading up to June, the highest number on record.
This year’s Make Your Mark campaign has seen 1,111,580 young people take part, making it one of the largest youth consultations of its kind in UK history, with nearly 1 in 5 of all young people aged 11-18 taking part. The Make Your Mark ballot is run by the British Youth Council with support from Local Authorities, schools, Parliament, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. It 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 within the chamber on Friday 9th November during the UK Youth Parliament’s eighth sitting in the House of Commons. This years debate is due to be chaired by John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons who has chaired every debate in the House of Commons since their first sitting in 2009.
The five issues that have been prioritised are:
- 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..
- Equal Pay, Equal Work – Give young people the same amount of pay, if they are doing the same work as adults in the same job.
- Tackling Homelessness – Every person should have a place to live and the opportunity to live comfortably. Let’s make it happen and put a stop to homelessness.
- Votes at 16 – Give 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote in all elections/referendums.
Speaking on behalf of UK Youth Parliament, Brahmpreet Kaur Gulati, said: “Knife crime in the UK continues to escalate and for far too long, the threat of knife culture has not been addressed by decision makers and this needs to change”
Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council, the charity which commissioned the consultation, said: “It’s phenomenal to see so many young people take part in this years Make Your Mark survey, in which we had the highest number of young people ever taking part. Young people from across the UK voted in record numbers to ensure their voices were heard, and decision makers must take note of their priorities.”
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 2018.
On 3rd October, the British Youth Council welcomed members of alumni, current and former members of staff, current and former trustees and friends of British Youth Council to a drinks reception and celebration to commemorate 70 years since the British Youth Council was founded. With alumni reaching back to the 1970’s right up until the 2010’s, the event was the perfect recipe for exchanging stories and learning about how the British Youth Council has changed and developed over time.
Guests were welcomed by the CEO, Jo Hobbs who then introduced the key-note speaker, Lord Peter Mandelson. He talked fondly of his time as Chair of the British Youth Council, saying ‘BYC played a seminal part in my whole political formation and career trajectory… Although I’ve been in the labour party all my life, what the British Youth Council gave me was an outlook on how you should do politics in the labour party and beyond’. He then encouraged guests to support the British Youth Council to ensure the charity can continue to flourish.
Lord Peter Mandelson handed over to our incoming Chair, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, who commented: “Nothing makes the current trustees happier than seeing the virtuous cycle of young people leading and really shaping this organisation and being shaped in turn before going off to change the world and then coming back as you all have tonight as the leaders of today.”
Anna Barker, our outgoing Chair, also took the stage and spoke eloquently and charismatically about her personal journey with the British Youth Council. From being a 15 year old carer from a low income background in rural Dorset, up until today as the award winning Charity Chair of the Year. Anna has led the charity as a board member and Chair for the last three years, astounding staff, trustees, young people and everyone in the youth sector with her uncompromising ability to campaign for change for young people. In her departing comments, Anna made three commitments;
- ‘Fun – although we are growing up, we should never stop having fun. Yes of course we should set goals and have aspirations and work really hard, but do this with joy and with light. I will ensure that today and the days that follow, the weeks and the months and the years beyond are filled with passion, joy and meaning like I’ve had at the British Youth Council.
- Give – I am a regular donor but I will also give my time and energy wherever you need it. To the current board, the staff team, I am more than ok to give that. I would also like to pledge £200 in the Big Give, which will be doubled during that campaign this Christmas.
- And finally – I promise to always elevate the experiences of young people, I promise to ask and to listen and I promise to always hold dear the vision, mission and values of the British Youth Council.’
Lewis Addlington-Lee, Deputy Chair of the British Youth Council rounded up the speeches by thanking all of the guests for coming and saying: “Your support really does mean the world. The way we give young people a voice in the UK is something that changes lives and is one of the best things about the British Youth Council.”
If you missed this event but are interested in attending other events like this, please sign up to the Friends of British Youth Council mailing list to make sure you are kept up to date.
By making a donation to the British Youth Council, you are investing in a future where young people are empowered to influence and inform the decisions that affect their lives.
The Electoral Reform Society has today released a report damning the 2018 Voter ID pilots as ‘a sledgehammer to crack a nut’. At this year’s local elections five areas trialled different forms of ID requirements as a measure to prevent voter fraud. However, as highlighted by the report, in a single day across the five councils twice as many people didn’t vote due to having incorrect ID as have been accused of personation, the type of fraud that ID prevents, in eight years across the whole of the UK.
The British Youth Council is among many voluntary and community sector organisations who have already raised concerns about the impact of Voter ID on the participation of marginalised communities across the UK. Evaluations have shown that those in lower socio-economic groups and younger voters were less likely to know about the ID requirements. The Windrush scandal this year has highlighted the difficulties that some legitimate voters could have in accessing identity documents. In the UK we do not have a universal and free form of photographic ID, meaning that there are financial barriers to providing photographic ID, and additional hoops to step through to gain a free locally accepted ID.
“Throughout history, the power of the vote and, equal access to voting, is something that so many have fought for – with young people being some of those who continue that battle to this day,” says British Youth Council Trustee Larissa Kennedy. “It seems oxymoronic that, in the year that we are celebrating the centenary of the extension of the franchise to some women, and 90 years since the vote was extended to all women and men over 21, that we are simultaneously putting barriers in the way of people accessing their vote.”
At the recent full Council meeting of the British Youth Council, a motion opposing the introduction of voter ID was passed by the membership, calling on the Government to reconsider the current approach and to look at different solutions that are proportionate to the actual risk posed by voter fraud, and calling on the Electoral Commission to examine the impact of voter ID trials on marginalised communities, including young people, to ensure that the impacts are not disproportionately felt by those communities.
“We heard from young people in one of the pilot areas that they were left feeling that only the smart and well educated would be voting’,” said Anna Rose Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council. “Democratic participation is a crucial responsibility of every member of society and attempts to deal with voter fraud must not disproportionately harm access to democracy. In the 2017 UK Parliamentary elections, 13 seats were won with a majority less than the number of people denied a vote in Bromley. The introduction of voter ID has a huge potential to swing the outcome of elections, reducing the voice of those already marginalised from the democratic process and creating a greater sense of disillusionment with the democratic process.”
The British Youth Council believes that the right to vote of young people and other marginalised communities must be protected. We will continue to stand alongside the Electoral Reform Society and other voluntary and community sector organisations to call for the voices of the marginalised to be heard and to remove barriers to democratic participation.
UK Youth Parliament’s Make Your Mark campaign received cross-party support from Members of Parliament this week. The ballot invites young people aged 11-18 to take part in shortlisting what is debated in the House of Commons chamber by Members of Youth Parliament. Young people can cast their vote in a multitude of ways including online.
The issues on the ballot, which includes ending period poverty and tackling homelessness, reflect the pledges made at local elections by Members of Youth Parliament across the UK. The nationwide campaign is supported by Local Authorities, schools and volunteers who are giving up their time to make sure young people have their say. Throughout the Autumn Members of Youth Parliament and volunteers across the country, invite young people in schools and youth clubs to take this opportunity to inform and influence Government and the decision makers in their communities.
Make Your Mark, which is supported by the British Youth Council, has reached hundreds of thousands of young people each year. Last year alone, almost a million young people took part in the annual ballot.
The Commons debate will take place on Friday 9th November, and will be chaired by The Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, who recently pledged his support for the campaign stating he looked forward to “welcoming the Members of the Youth Parliament and presiding over some truly inspiring debates”. Following the debates, Members of Youth Parliament will then choose their priorities for 2019.