The British Youth Council have expressed their dissatisfaction with the Government’s continued opposition to a lower voting age. The unplanned EU Elections which take place on Thursday 23rd May will see 1.5 million young people aged 16 and 17 denied the opportunity to vote.
Over the past 16 years, the youth-led charity has been campaigning for the enfranchisement of 16 and 17 year olds. Research compiled by the Votes at 16 Coalition indicates unanimous cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament where they have introduced votes at 16 in Scottish Parliamentary elections and Local Council elections, increasing support across the green benches at Westminster and significant support in the Wales where the Welsh Assembly are due to introduce a lower voting age in 2021.
‘Unequal access to democracy’
16 and 17 year olds in Scotland had the chance to vote in the Scottish Referendum, continue to vote in the Scottish Parliamentary elections and Scottish Local Council elections and we are due to lower the voting age in the Welsh local elections in the near future. This continues to create unequal access to democracy across the UK.
Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “It is simply unbelievable that we continue to deny 16 and 17 year olds the opportunity to vote in some elections. How can the Government justify this unequal situation?”
Earlier this year the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Votes at 16 released a campaign report.
You might have heard that on May the 23rd that the UK will be voting for Members of the European Parliament, but aren’t we leaving the European Union? Why should I bother voting when it won’t matter anyway? Isn’t it just a waste of time?
Europe and the EU have always been controversial topics within the UK, and over the past 6-7 years they’ve been a near-constant aspect of debate; from Westminster and our devolved parliaments, to social media and between friends. It has also been divisive: we’ve seen election after referendum show that we as a country are divided, we’ve seen a rise in violent rhetoric and extremist views, and even the tragic murder of Jo Cox, a Member of Parliament, a week before the 2016 referendum.
It’s safe to say that the UK’s relationship with the EU is complicated. However, with Brexit supposedly happening before the 31st of October at least, it still might seem a bit pointless to care about who your MEPs are when we’re on our way out anyway. But that couldn’t be further from the truth!
Here’s 5 reasons why you should vote on May the 23rd:
- Your vote really counts. The UK has 73 MEPs, the joint third highest number for any of the EU’s 28 member states. Whoever you choose to vote for, the upcoming elections give you the chance to really have your voice heard at a Europe-wide level, and the candidates you elect could have a massive impact on the European Parliament for however long we remain in it. The political party of the MEP you vote for also makes sure that your voice matters, as the European Parliament is broken up into “political groups” which each countries’ political parties can affiliate to. These groups can have a massive influence over the parliament, and due to the large number of MEPs the UK has, your decision can really make a difference. Find out more about the EU’s political groups here. The European Youth Forum has created a voter comparator tool that you can further use to compare the priorities of the different groupings.
- Send a message about Brexit. However you felt about the 2016 referendum, the European Parliament’s elections are a great way to show decision-makers how you feel about Brexit and the Government’s approach so far. A clear victory for pro-European or pro-Brexit MEPs would influence the decision the UK parties will make in the coming months. There are a large number of parties and candidates standing for these elections who represent a range of opinions and views. Proud ‘Remainer’ or ‘Brexiteer’? Somewhere in-between? Make your vote count! Find your region’s candidates here.
- It’s fairer for smaller parties. The UK uses a proportional representation system called the “d’Hondt system” for electing its MEPs. This means that there could be a better chance for smaller parties to gain seats than in our general elections! However, some people have also argued that the high number of small parties similar positions on key issues (like Brexit) could fragment the vote. Either way, if you support a political party that doesn’t often get seats in Westminster, your vote could be the deciding factor in whether or not your candidates become MEPs, and your party could potentially have a better shot than in the system we use for general elections. Find out more about the d’Hondt system here.
- This could be your last chance! If the UK really does leave the European Union before October the 31st, this could be your last ever opportunity to vote in an election for the European Parliament. Participating in the elections is a unique opportunity to vote alongside citizens from across 28 countries, electing representatives to a shared parliament with political groups that work hand-in-hand with colleagues from across borders to tackle issues. In a post-Brexit UK this would be an opportunity that future generations – our children, grandchildren, and even younger siblings – might not get: so if you’re eligible to vote, use your right while you still can!
- Speak up as a young person. The European Parliament elections typically have a bad turn-out for young people, and those aged 18-24 typically have the lowest voter registration of any age group (read more here). This means that some people say that young people don’t care about politics, or mark our turn-out down to laziness or a lack of interest in being an active citizen. However, just looking at the recent rise in young people taking a stand – from the Climate Strikes to the demonstrations and marches related to Brexit – it’s clear that they couldn’t be further from the truth. Regardless of Brexit, whether you’ve never voted before or campaign religiously at every election, voting on May the 23rd sends a message that you do care about politics, and you won’t let your voice be ignored. And even if you don’t decide to take part, remember that there’s hundreds of thousands of young people who just aren’t old enough, or aren’t quite eligible, who would jump at the opportunity to vote in something they care about.
Convinced? Thinking about it? Either way, you don’t have long left to register as registration closes on the 7th of May (register to vote here), and if you’re an EU citizen, or hold dual-citizenship, it’s a bit more complicated if you want to vote for MEPs in another country in the EU (find out more here).
You also might have the chance to meet some of your MEP candidates, or attending hustings or debates, in the run up to May the 23rd! If you want to feel extra prepared for these hustings, check this document here with ideas of questions you can, on advancing youth’s position in societies.
Huw Sherrard is a UK Young Ambassador (Scotland) to the EU Youth Dialogue, the UK Youth Delegate to the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, and a member of the European Youth Card Association’s Youth Panel.
The British Youth Council have supported calls for the Government to take steps to deliver a fairer society by supporting younger people in the housing and employment market.
In a new report published by the House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision, the Government is also asked to ensure local authorities have specific planning policies to meet the housing needs of young people. The Committee also goes on to recommend the Government make substantial increases in funding for Further Education and vocational training to tackle unfairness between those to go onto Higher Education and those who do not.
The British Youth Council also backed calls for make the government to make PSHE a statutory subject that is inspected by Ofsted and includes education about housing and finance matters. The national youth council has made repeated calls for statutory PSHE over a number of years. In a ballot of over 1.1 million young people, which was coordinated by the British Youth Council, a curriculum that prepares students for life was one of the top five issues.
Commending on the report findings, Lewis Addlington-Lee, Deputy Chair of the British Youth Council said: “The British Youth Council welcome the findings of the House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision.
“The Lord Committee’s findings make it clear more affordable housing, the introduction of statutory PSHE and investment in services such as youth provision and a Government willing to listen to the needs of young people will help us to tackle international unfairness and importantly build a fairer society.”
The national youth-led charity believes there is a lack of affordable housing for young people in some rural areas; exacerbating the problems that young people face in remaining in or moving into rural areas to work and live. The British Youth Council believe that there is a need to look for sustainable solutions to rural housing problems.
On the 50th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act receiving Royal Assent, The British Youth Council, UK Youth Parliament and Votes at 16 Coalition call on the Government to lower the voting age to 16 in all elections and referenda taking place in the UK.
The renewed calls comes following repeated attempts to extend the franchise by Members of Parliament. In a recent report published earlier this month, a cross-party group of parliamentarians made the compelling case for ‘votes at 16’.
The British Youth Council believe that 16 and 17 year olds should be given the vote in all public elections in the UK. The youth-led charity, which has been campaigning on votes at 16 since 2003, believe that at 16 we are mature enough to engage in, and contribute to, our democracy through having the vote.
Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “It makes no sense that some 16 and 17 year olds are prevented from voting in elections and referenda. The Government must concede and implement a lowering voting age in all elections!”
Support for a lower voting age has increased over the last 20 years with politicians from across the political spectrum announcing their support for a lower voting age. 16 and 17 year olds are allowed to vote in the Scottish Parliamentary elections and Scottish Local Council elections and are due to get a vote in the Welsh local elections, making it harder to deny an extension to the franchise in all elections. Votes at 16 has also been a long-standing campaign for Members of Youth Parliament with the issue topping the youth agenda on five occasions since 2011 in the Make Your Mark ballot.
On Thursday 11th April, the British Youth Council launched the Work Experience Action Group in a bid to combat unequal access to work experience. The new focus group, which is made possible by a grant from the People’s Postcode Trust, will work to improve access to quality work experience and careers advice across England.
The pioneering group is made up of young people aged of 16 – 25 who will be constructing toolkits for young people and employers across the UK with support from The Careers & Enterprise Company. These toolkits will 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 project has been established following the Youth Select Committee’s inquiry into access to work experience last year. The committee of young people found there were 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 action group, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair of the British Youth Council, said: “Last year the Youth Select Committee found unacceptable levels of inequality were affecting young people’s access to good quality work experience across the UK.
“The Work Experience Action Group will now work to develop 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.”
Claudia Harris, CEO of The Careers & Enterprise Company, who are supporting the project said: “The Youth Select Committee held an impressive inquiry into work experience last year and it’s great that this truly youth-led initiative has followed as a result.
“It will enable many more young people across the country to have greater exposure to their local employers which is crucial in our fast-changing world of work. It’s brilliant to see young people taking the lead in shaping careers support. We look forward to working closely with them throughout the process.”
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.
Working together, UK Youth, The Scouts, Girlguiding, National Youth Agency, NCS Trust, Youth United Foundation, Step up to Serve, The Prince’s Trust, and the British Youth Council have been calling on the Government to develop a Youth Charter.
We welcome the news that the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Jeremy Wright MP, has announced a new Youth Charter with Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport and Civil Society, Mims Davies MP, at the Prime Minister’s Serious Violence Summit.
Commenting on the Government’s announcement, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair of the British Youth Council, said: “We’re delighted to hear about the Government’s new commitment to young people. Young people across the country are facing a unique set of challenges and it’s imperative that the Government respond to evolving needs of young people.
“Young people should be a the forefront of the decision making which affects their lives not just because it’s the right thing to do but because they care about their futures.”
The time has come for a new, bolder approach to youth strategy that acknowledges the specific opportunities and challenges facing this generation of young people. We are working collaboratively to unlock investment in youth services to ensure all young people are given the opportunities they need to be able to thrive.
Our shared vision is for a nation where all young people have access to appropriate, high quality resources and services and where they are:
- Skilled and equipped to learn and earn
- Experiencing positive health and well-being
- Active members of their communities and society
- Safe and confident in their future
- Treated fairly and equally
Together we are committed to empowering young people to become transformative leaders in our communities to deliver positive change. To achieve this, we must put young people at the front and centre of joined up service design and delivery.
A new Youth Charter will facilitate an integrated, youth centric, approach across the myriad services many young people interact with in their day to day lives, ranging from formal and non-formal education and social services, to criminal justice, health care, housing and benefits.
As part of this offer, young people must have access to high quality and universally available non-formal education and development opportunities. These activities, including youth clubs, sports clubs, art and drama groups, social enterprises, after school clubs and uniformed youth groups, social action, the #iwill campaign, and the NCS programme, all contribute to the richness of a young persons’ social development journey and should be accessible, affordable, open to all, and nationally coordinated to ensure parity of access.
We also welcome the Governments desire to ensure youth workers have the skills they need to best support young people and their commitment to explore the renewal of vital youth work qualifications.
The British Youth Council are backing a new Youth Charter to put young people where they belong, at the top of the agenda. Through developing and delivering a cohesive approach to services for young people we can improve inequality and social mobility, generate positive outcomes that benefit wider society, and unlock cost savings in health, criminal justice, and social care.
The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee formally begins a new inquiry into the UK’s knife crime epidemic. The pioneering Committee is calling for evidence from a wide range of contributors, including young people, charities, and businesses.
The announcement comes following a UK-wide ballot of young people 1.1 million aged 11 to 18 in which young people
But research from the House of Commons library has given even greater cause for concern on the spread of the epidemic, as it revealed that knife crime, particularly where it affects young people, has been a ‘persistent and growing concern’ for successive governments.
Putting a stop to the ever-growing scourge of knife crime is fast becoming a national priority, with the Government making several announcements in recent months, including the introduction of knife crime prevention orders and investment in early intervention projects.
Now in its eighth year, the Youth Select Committee is a British Youth Council initiative, supported by the House of Commons. The eleven committee members are aged 15-17 and include Members of the UK Youth Parliament, Youth Councillors, and representatives from each of the devolved nations.
This year, the committee will look at issues including:
- Is the Government strategy doing enough to effectively combat knife crime?
- Are there trends in
the statisticsof who is perpetrating and who are the victims of knife crime?
- How is knife crime
Bailey-Lee Robb, a Member of the Youth Select Committee from Fife, Scotland said: “Young people have made it very clear that knife crime continues to be a significant concern.
“The Youth Select Committee want to hear from a whole range of people on this issue so we can find solutions that will have a demonstrable impact of the lives of young people.”
Rt. Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons said: “Every year the Youth Select Committee play a vital role in raising awareness about the issues affecting young people across the country.
“This year the Committee’s determination to tackle the epidemic of knife crime is something that I wholly support. I will be following this pioneering Committee as they investigate the scourge of knife crime and I eagerly anticipate their report.”
The Youth Select Committee call for evidence closes on Friday 7th June 2019 and the Committee will hold oral evidence sessions in the House of Commons in July.
The Votes at 16 All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) has released
a campaign report to mark one year since the group was established at the
APPG’s AGM tonight, Tuesday 2nd April.
The report draws together evidence gathered by the all-party group throughout its first year, with contributions from parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, academics, youth organisations, campaigners and think tanks.
Speakers at the launch event, responding to the report, will include a Member of the UK Youth Parliament and Cat Smith MP, Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs.
Danielle Rowley MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Votes at 16 said: “This report makes the clear and compelling case that it is time for votes at 16. We live in turbulent political times and the diverse insights of young people will be as important as ever in helping to chart a way forward. The mobilisation of young people on issues from Brexit to Climate Change shows just how much we are losing out by not recognising their views at the ballot box.
“The Government must listen to the growing calls from voices in all political parties, including their own, that the time to act is now.”
Sir Peter Bottomley MP, Treasurer of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Votes at 16 said: “If we are in favour of the average new voter taking part in a national election aged 18, to achieve this, voting eligibility needs to be 16.”
“My appeal to Conservatives, the Government and supporters of other parties who oppose this is not to approach this issue with calculations of party advantage.”
“The United Kingdom’s democratic story is more important than party advantage.”
Commenting on the report, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair of the British Youth Council, the secretariat for the all-party group said: “The argument for lowering the voting age to 16 continues to get greater! The Government continue to ignore the request for votes at 16 but we know there are no credible arguments against lowering the age when we allow 16 and 17 year old the chance to vote in some elections already.”
Support for a lower voting age has increased over the last 20 years with politicians from across the political spectrum announcing their support for a lower voting age. 16 and 17 year olds are allowed to vote in the Scottish Parliamentary elections and Scottish Local Council elections and are due to get a vote in the Welsh local elections, making it harder to deny an extension to the franchise in all elections. Votes at 16 has been a long-standing campaign for Members of Youth Parliament with the issue topping the youth agenda on five occasions since 2011 in the Make Your Mark ballot.