The British Youth Council are delighted to welcome new minister for Civil Society, Baroness Barran MBE, who will take on responsibility for youth policy at the Office for Civil Society following the departure of Mims Davies MP who has been in charge of the office since November 2018.
Commenting on the appointment of the new minister, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council said: “The British Youth Council are looking forward to working with the new minister to ensure the Government remains committed to young people’s voices being heard on the issues they’re passionate about.
“It remains absolutely vital, during this time, that young people play a role in the Government decision making”
The youth-led charity is writing to welcome the Minister to the new role, however, it will also reiterate its concerns for the size of the brief which will include other responsibilities. It is the organisation’s longstanding belief, that the Government should appoint a Minister solely responsible for young people. Successive Governments have ignored cross-party support for the reintroduction of the role which has been vacant since 2010.
Lewis Addlington-Lee, Deputy Chair of the British Youth Council said: “Despite our best efforts to persuade successive Governments, we still don’t have a dedicated Youth Minister.
“Although this appears to be a smaller brief, we’ll be requesting further reassurances that the size of the brief, won’t result in young people’s priorities being ignored.”
We will also use this as an opportunity to highlight the most important issues facing young people living in the UK. In the lead up to the General Election, the British Youth Council highlighted the underfunding of youth services and the importance of ensuring young people have a meaningful opportunity to influence Brexit negotiations.
The British Youth Council have worked under various Government departments since 2011 to deliver it’s Youth Voice programme. The Youth Voice programme, which is currently supported by Department for Culture, Media and Sport, includes UK Youth Parliament and Youth Select Committee. The programme aims to give young people the opportunity to influence public decision-making at a local and national level.
On Sunday, 21st July, ten runners including young people from our programmes, staff from our incredible corporate partners Fledglink and the Bank of England and other members of the British Youth Council community, took part in the ASICS London 10K to raise money for the British Youth Council.
Our cheer team made up of staff, trustees and friends were there to offer encouragement at the half-way point to our team of runners.
Collectively raising over £2,200 the challenge event champions smashed their targets and have made a huge contribution to the British Youth Council and young people across the UK. To the runners, donors and volunteers, thank you!
Luke Thornton, Treasurer at the British Youth Council and one of the runners in our challenge event team on Sunday commented “Small charities like the British Youth Council benefit so much from challenge events like this one and I am delighted I can support their work in this way.
“It is so great to see more and more support like this for the British Youth Council and I know that it will make a huge difference to the charity.”
If you would like to take part in a challenge event or would like to organise your own fundraising event, please get in touch with our Head of Fundraising, Victoria Ward on Victoria.firstname.lastname@example.org
Ministers and Members of Parliament, alongside leading figures from the world of policing, crime and policy are among those giving evidence to the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee on 5th and 12th July as part of an inquiry into knife crime.
The inquiry comes as a result of a UK-wide ballot of 1.1 million young people aged 11 to 18, in which young people declared knife crime their biggest concern.
More than 100,000 people signed a Parliament and Government petition demanding a debate on knife crime- resulting in Parliament debating the issue in March. Research from the House of Commons Library showed that knife crime, particularly where it affects young people, has been a ‘persistent and growing concern’ for successive governments.
Parliament’s Youth Select Committee gives young people the opportunity to scrutinise and hold inquiries into topics that matter to them. Following a call for written evidence, the 2019 Youth Select Committee will be hearing from a range of witnesses on 5 and 12 July inside the Grimmond Room of the House of Commons, usually used by MPs.
Rachel Ojo, Chair of the Youth Select Committee from Essex, 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.”
Now in its eighth year, the Youth Select Committee is a British Youth Council initiative, supported by the House of Commons. The eleven members of the Youth Select Committee are aged 11-18 and include Members of the UK Youth Parliament, Youth Councillors, a Young Mayor and representatives from each of the devolved nations.
At the British Youth Council, we believe young people should have a say on issues that affect them. When young people take part in our programmes and events, they gain essential skills, confidence and knowledge on how they can be heard and create change. The British Youth Council has been successfully giving young people a platform to engage with decision-makers and have a say on issues that affect them for over 70 years. Your support today will ensure we are around into the next 70 years to continue to empower young people to be inspiring change makers.
A former youth representative said: “The British Youth Council has made me a better person on the whole. Hand on heart, it has changed my life. Before, I could not communicate with other people efficiently and did not know about the magnitude of the power of my voice and what other young people can do.
“I now have the ability to publicly speak in a confident manner, including speaking at the House of Commons. It has opened so many more doors, I am now a confident leader. I highly recommend more young people to take part in Youth Voice in the British Youth Council.”
A small regular donation to the British Youth Council of £10 per month would enable even more young people to take part in our programmes, develop their skills and become agents of change. By making a regular donation, you are making an investment into a future where young people are empowered to influence and inform the decisions that affect their lives. Your support is essential in creating a world where young people take an active role in society. Thank you!
As part of Small Charities Week, we are celebrating the fantastic work of the British Youth Council made possible by our generous community of supporters, funders and partners. Thank you.
The British Youth Council is looking for people aged 16-25 who are motivated by a belief in the work of the British Youth Council to achieve our vision of the world where all young people are respected and able to influence and inform decisions that affect their lives or on which they have strong opinions.
The British Youth Council really is governed by young people for young people. Our board of trustees is made up of 13 people who are elected or appointed. The board not only sets the strategic direction of the organisation, but they also monitor progress, shape our activities and act as ambassadors and spokespeople for the British Youth Council in the media and elsewhere.
While your first goal as a trustee is to serve your peers and the British Youth Council, it is also a way to build your experience and networks, develop a broad range of skills and help shape the future of a world where all young people have a say and are heard.
We would encourage all ages to apply to bring both representations of those we serve alongside experience of governance. The British Youth Council needs a diverse, inclusive spread of ages and talents.
The deadline for applications is Monday 8th July 2019 at 9am.
The children’s charity, NSPCC, has released data showing that children and young people are facing a rising tide of racial hate crimes. Reported incidences of racially motivated abuse and bullying have increased by one fifth since 2015-16.
“I’m heartbroken to hear of the racism young BME students are facing in schools across the country and, regrettably, not shocked because their stories are very similar to my own”, says Larissa Kennedy, Trustee of the British Youth Council. In 2015 young people across the UK voted for racism and religious discrimination as one of the top five issues facing young people in the annual Make Your Mark ballot. This prompted the Youth Select Committee to undertake an inquiry into the issue in 2016.
“The Youth Select Committee received evidence from a range of young people sharing their experience of racial and religious discrimination, both in their communities and in schools,” says Kennedy. The Committee made a range of recommendations regarding actions that could be taken to better support schools and teachers to educate around this issue and to tackle racism when it does happen.
In the joint ministerial foreword to the government response, representatives of the Home Office, Department for Education and Department for Communities and Local Government stated “We are clear that no child should live in fear of racism or bullying. To this end, we have sent a clear message to schools that they need to challenge and tackle all forms of bullying and discrimination, including racism and religious discrimination.” In this response the government made no new commitments to tackle the issues raised by young people.
Whilst the sentiments of the Ministers were right, the British Youth Council believe it is time for action. Between attainment gaps, erasure from the national curriculum, disproportionate expulsions, discriminatory dress codes and these reports of racist incidents in schools, education is a right that young BME students are not currently being fully afforded. We must not only prevent and tackle racist incidents but institutional racism in the education system. The British Youth Council renews it’s call on the government to listen to young people and to work with us to actively eradicate racism in schools.
This April I visited Brussels for my fifth and final assembly meeting as the UK Young Ambassador to the European Youth Forum, which I attended alongside Lucia Jones. At this meeting, which brings together around 150 young representatives from across Europe, we usually discuss and pass resolutions on continent-wide issues as well as elect people to represent us on other platforms and advocate for youth rights. At this particular meeting, we discussed a couple of policy papers which essentially did as they say on the tin – one on demanding urgent climate action and the other on better youth representation – though perhaps surprisingly the second one did not pass through this time round for more technical reasons. We also admitted a new organisation, the Junior Chamber of International Europe, to become an Observer member, and were treated to a speech from the Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium on why young people were important and the future (Shock! Gasp!).
However, it now being late May, I have since suffered the excruciating pain of another round of exams, and am struggling now to write beyond the clichés of an essay. Luckily though, the subject which I would love to talk briefly to you about now are clichés – specifically those which are dredged up time and time again within the world of youth advocacy, apparently present across the whole of the continent, and in my opinion deeply dangerous to the future of improving our lives. I have already mentioned one of these clichés – that youth is the future – and at the heart of the statement it is not at all wrong and incredibly true. But claims like this, which also include statements like better rights are the answer to our problems, and that more funding is the solution, though they hold a lot of truth, are unoriginal and a sign of uninspired thinking within our networks. Unfortunately, I’ve seen (and written) ‘social media’ or ‘networking’ or ‘funding’ on a group Flipchart as the solution to our current problems more often than I’ve had hot dinners. It is true that social media is an issue, for example, the European Youth Forum has 144,000 followers on Facebook and rarely musters more than a dozen likes on a post – simply wanting more of what we already have shown to be ineffective is ineffective. Within discussions, these lazy solutions to problems shut down debates at the same place they have for decades. They stop with a cliché, not a point – giving us long-standing soundbites which politicians can regurgitate to us with very little consequences compared to supporting a solid policy position. Therefore, we must really all push to challenge ourselves everyday on not reusing the same jargon for the issues we face as, eventually, it will lose all of its meaning.
In all honesty, I must now tell you, though you may have already gleaned this from the descriptions above, this meeting at times did get a little tedious… albeit with two very significant exceptions. The first was the election of our very own Pegah Moulana, one of the most skilful, committed and engaging young people that currently represents the British Youth Council, who was re-elected to the Advisory Council of Europe to help oversee certain aspects of that organisation including the European Court of Human Rights. In particular, Pegah has these past two years already been working on improving the condition of young refugees and fostering Middle Eastern-European dialogue. Her election this year coincided too with a proposed 100% cut to the youth programme of the council, so now more than ever we need to be sure to support her to hold up the infrastructure of protecting our rights. This is especially important in the context of this being one of the only European institutions which isn’t tied to the European Union. If we can do so, I am certain her work will continue to show that international youth advocacy does generate real-world positive change and can bring people together who otherwise would have been separate.
The other exception was the address made to us by the 23 year-old Yasmine Ouirhrane who was 2019’s Young European of the Year. She told us of the racism she received growing up in rural Italy to an Italian mother and a father who had immigrated to Italy, and also facing discrimination throughout her life as a woman. However, she harnessed the negative energy people had dealt out to her and reshaped it into a passion for creating a fairer and more equal society at a European level. Now living in France, she was instrumental in organising the huge Yo!Fest last year in Strasbourg as well as working with disadvantaged groups in the city year round. Her example is one which we should all seek to emulate as it shows that if you want to improve society at a European level we must change lives at a local level with community projects – not the other way round. It is without a doubt the culmination of all the local projects across Europe which drives forward the positive change in our society – and that the European Youth Forum must always stand to protect the vital funding, and political support, on which many of them depend.
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.