The Government have confirmed they have no plans to introduce a lowering voting age of 16 for the General Election which will take place on Thursday 8th June 2017. The British Youth Council are disappointed to learn that yet again 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds will be denied a vote.
In response to a petition calling for the voting age to be lowered, the Government states ‘the House of Commons has debated the question of lowering the voting age in a number of contexts, and has repeatedly voted against lowering it.’ Regrettably, 16 and 17-year-olds will not just miss out on the snap election, but will also miss out on the May elections which will see the election of six newly-created combined authority mayors.
Since the Scottish Independence Referendum, in which 16 and 17-year-olds were given a vote, young people have been turned away from casting their vote on eight separate occasions, without including the numerous by-elections. In 2014, 75% of 16 and 17-year-olds in Scotland voted in the independence referendum, a vote that 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.
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 over 40% of Members of Parliament declaring their support for votes at 16. 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.
Anna Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “It’s disappointing that 16 and 17-year-olds will be denied a chance to vote in one of the most important elections of our lifetime. A precedent was set following the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, and yet eight elections later 16 and 17-year-olds across the UK still haven’t been entrusted with the vote.
“It is extremely regrettable that the common sense argument has not prevailed. When young people feel they have an authentic opportunity to influence change they will take part.”
Last week Members of Parliament backed the Prime Minster’s bid for a snap election on Thursday 8th June 2017. In an open letter sent to all political parties, organisations from across the youth sector are now calling on all party leaders to make a firm commitment to young people across the country.
The open letter, which is signed by the British Youth Council and other leading youth organisations, requests party leaders make an explicit commitment to represent young people’s demands in their upcoming manifestos. At a time when Parliament will be shaping a post-Brexit Britain, young people’s overwhelming demand to be part of the political process must be acted upon.
The joint letter comes following our initial call to politicians last week which demanded politicians talked to young people and not about them.
— ITV News (@itvnews) April 26, 2017
The Prime Minster has announced her proposal for an early General Election. The election is due to take place on Thursday 8th June 2017, however, Members of Parliament will vote on the proposal in the House of Commons on Wednesday 19th April 2017. In response, the British Youth Council calls on parties and politicians across the country to talk to young people not about them.
Young people are passionate about the future and must be given an authentic opportunity to have a say, influence the debate and set out their priorities. The upcoming election will hold more importance than usual as political parties set out their plans for a ‘Post-Brexit Britain’ and young people must be included in that conversation.
We’ll be reminding parties to keep the promises they have made to young people – especially the five priority issues set out in our 2015 General Election Manifesto ‘Our Parliament. Our Vision’. The issues included improving mental health provision, saving youth services and creating a real living wage for everyone.
The June snap election will also mark yet another election in which 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds will be denied a vote. We call on all parties to ensure that all 16 and 17-year-olds of the future are no longer turned away from the ballot box.
The British Youth Council will be contacting the Government and the Electoral Commission to discuss voter registration for the General Election. We proudly supported sector-wide efforts to get young people registered to vote in the lead up to 2015 General Election and the EU Referendum in 2016. In the meantime, the British Youth Council is urging young people across the country to register to vote as soon as possible to ensure they can have a direct say in the direction of the country.
We are currently working with Parliament to establish how this will impact the Youth Select Committee inquiry on Body Image and the UK Youth Parliament which is due to sit in the House of Commons in November 2017. More details will be released in due course.
Anna Barker, Chair, British Youth Council said: “Politicians across the country must engage young people in a meaningful way ahead of the announced snap election. They have 7 weeks to convince young people that they can deliver on the issues that matter to them. Those who seek to represent us must talk to us and not about us.
“It is however of great concern to us that once again 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds will be denied a vote in an election. Political parties now have a real opportunity to ensure that this is an issue of the past. Empower young people and give them the voice they deserve.
“Lastly, I’d like to call on young people to register to vote, research the issues, and then turn out on June 8th! Young people will be greatly affected by the next Government’s decisions, particularly as our next Government will be tasked with negotiating how we leave the European Union. Let’s send a clear message to politicians in June!”
The British Youth Council hosted the Youth Voice Leadership Development Programme at the Kingswood Centre in Ashford, Kent. The three-day flagship leadership residential, which took place from Friday 7th April 2017 to Sunday 9th April 2017, brought together over 100 youth representatives from across the country. Youth representatives who attended the event were given the skills and support to become successful youth voice leaders in their community.
The weekend residential allowed youth representatives to share best practice; meet other young people in similarly elected posts, and equipped them with the skills to work on behalf of young people locally and nationally.
Existing youth representatives were challenged to build upon on their current knowledge and experience, whilst newly elected representatives were inducted into their roles. The events activities and discussions fused together in a rally to support the UK Youth Parliament’s national campaign ‘a Curriculum for life’. The campaign aims to see the place of citizenship education and PSHE in the curriculum radically overhauled. Last month, the Government announced it was preparing to introduce legislation that will see every child taught sex education in school.
The residential marks the beginning of a year-long term of office for many youth representatives. During the event, youth representatives were encouraged to create pledges for the year ahead. Over the weekend our film crew also began capturing a documentary which will follow the journey of youth representatives throughout the year.
The British Youth Council and YMCA England have taken the decision to postpone this evening’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Youth Affairs due to take place on the Parliamentary estate due to an ongoing police incident at Parliament.
Young people who have made their way to the event are welcome to attend the British Youth Council’s office, CAN Mezzanine, 49-51 East Road, London, N1 6AH.
If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact the head office on 0207 250 8374.
We will be in touch to arrange a new date for the next meeting.
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.
The Government is bringing forward plans to introduce legislation that will see every child from the age of 4 taught sex education, according to a written statement by the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening. The British Youth Council welcomes the news that more young people will be empowered with sex education and warns it must be high quality and accompanied by citizenship education.
The British Youth Council have been working to convince the Government to introduce statutory and compulsory high-quality citizenship and sex and relationship education to the curriculum for a number of years. In 2013, the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee report ‘A Curriculum for Life’ concluded life skills education in schools fell well short of its full potential and little has been done to address the report’s findings since.
The British Youth Council were first aware of a possible change in the Government’s stance on PSHE last month when the Government indicated it was ‘actively considering the case for further action on PSHE’. The Government’s comments were made in response to the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee report on young people and the issues of racism and religious discrimination.
The British Youth Council believes that students should leave our education systems equipped with the skills, knowledge and experience to become active, well-informed and confident members of their local, national and global communities. This means making sure that education covers politics and democratic life, as well as social issues such as sex and relationship education.
It’s evident that young people feel that the current citizenship education and SRE curriculum provisions are inadequate and that they are being denied a better understanding of themselves, relationships, society and politics. Young people have repeatedly called for a curriculum for life, most recently in UK Youth Parliament’s 2016 Make Your Mark ballot of 978,216 young people, when the issue was voted a top priority.
The British Youth Council believes the current scope of the citizenship curriculum is too narrow and should encompass wider political and constitutional rights, as well as social issues including global citizenship and sustainability, legal rights and financial literacy, human rights, liberation, diversity and information regarding mental health.
According to political commentators, it is likely that the introduction of a compulsory sex education would also include a change in teacher training. The British Youth Council believes that Government should ensure there is sufficient and appropriate training, development and specialist support for teachers dealing with the complex and sensitive issues of citizenship education and sex and relationship education. Teacher training must ensure that those delivering these programmes are confident, competent, impartial, consistent and professional. The information and training provided on consent, abuse, and sexual violence should be inclusive of all gender and sexual identities.
Anna Rose Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council said:
“It’s absolutely fantastic to hear the Government are introducing statutory sex education, however, we’d like to see sex education that it is high quality and accompanied by citizenship education. We’ve been campaigning on this issues for a number of years and we’re delighted that the Government is finally listening to young people.
“We first learned of a change in Government policy last month in response to the Youth Select Committee’s report on racism and religious discrimination, in which we repeated our calls for compulsory PSHE.
“We look forwad to working with the Government and partners such as the PSHE Association to ensure this is implemented well at all schools across the UK.”
The Government has today (Tuesday 7th February 2017) released its official response to the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee Report – ‘Young People and the Issues of Racism and Religious Discrimination’. In an unprecedented move, the joint response has been issued by three departments including the Department for Education, Home Office and Department for Communities and Local Government. The response states the Government’s commitment to building ‘a country that works for everyone’.
The joint Government response, which offers an answer to each of the Youth Select Committee’s recommendations, makes a commitment to support schools to produce their own codes of practice, bringing together the various statutory duties and policies, to set out the principles for a whole school approach to inclusivity and tolerance. The Government has also welcomed Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton’s proposal to the establish a national hate crime advisory group.
The response follows the Youth Select Committee’s inquiry which considered both written and oral evidence and concluded that racist taunting was being dismissed as banter in schools across the UK. In the report, published in November 2016 the Committee offered recommendations pertaining to the level and quality of awareness and education in schools, the prevalence of racism and religious discrimination and how organisations and young people are attempting to tackle it, how the issues can be tackled at a local level by communities and how tackling racism and religious discrimination should be approached at a national level by the Government.
Throughout the inquiry, evidence was gathered from a range of witnesses, including charities, young people, academics, Ministers and education professionals. The inquiry was triggered after the issue topped the UK Youth Parliament’s Make Your Mark ballot in 2015 of 969,992 young people in the UK.
The Youth Select Committee have made it clear that in order to tackle racism and religious discrimination changes must be made to the PSHE syllabus. Despite not agreeing, the Government have stated they are ‘actively considering the case for further action on PHSE’, a message which represents a change in tone in the Government’s response on PSHE lessons.
During the inquiry, which took place in the wake of ‘post-Brexit racism’, the Government published their Hate Crime Action Plan which looks to focuses on reducing hate crime, increasing reporting, and improving support for victims. The Government have made it clear that they are invested in tackling racism and religious discrimination, and the British Youth Council will be looking to the Government’s response to the Casey Review, which is due to be released in Spring 2017, to see what steps the Government
Bronagh Hughes, Chair of the Youth Select Committee said:
“The Youth Select Committee welcomes the Government’s swift and comprehensive response to our report published late last year, ‘Young People and the Issue of Racism and Religious Discrimination’, and is particularly appreciative of the cross-departmental nature of the response we have received.
“Whilst we do wish that more of our recommendations could have been supported, we were particularly pleased to read of the Department of Education’s consideration of further action on the teaching of PSHE, and the Government’s welcome of the establishment of a national hate crime Independent Advisory Group for young people. These are issues that are very important to all members of the Youth Select Committee.”
Download the Youth Select Committee Report ‘Young People and the Issues of Racism and Religious Discrimination’
Download Government response to Youth Select Committee Report ‘Young People and the Issues of Racism and Religious Discrimination’
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
The British Youth Council welcomes the Government’s proposal to focus mental health reforms on young people but we recognise more is needed to ensure parity of esteem for children and young people’s mental and physical health.
On Monday 9th January 2017, Prime Minister, Theresa May announced measures to transform mental health support in our schools, workplaces and communities. In a speech at the Charity Commission, May set out measures which would see additional training for teachers, an extra £15m for community care, online self-checking and mental health first aid training.
The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee published a report on young people’s mental health in the winter of 2015. The Committee found a range of issues facing young people’s mental health, including the absence of support and signposting in schools, bullying online, stigma around the discussion of mental health and the growing pressures and decreasing funding.
The Government have since taken on a number of its recommendations and we’re pleased to see the Prime Minister reaffirming their commitments. In our recommendations, we made it clear all teachers should receive mandatory minimum training on young people’s mental health as part of their initial teacher training and we’re looking forward to seeing what this works in practice in the coming months.
Rhys Hart, Chair of the Youth Select Committee on Young People’s Mental Health said: “I’m delighted that the Government have reaffirmed their commitment to young people’s mental health. The Youth Select Committee’s comprehensive investigation discovered some important and serious issues around the current state of young people’s mental health services and although we have stressed the importance of mandatory training for teachers on young people’s mental health it’s imperative a whole school approach is taken to ensure we really tackle the issues at hand.”
Download Government Response to the Youth Select Committee’s Report on ‘Young People’s Mental Health’.