Over the last few weeks if you watched the news, looked on social media or read trending articles you may have been aware that it is political party conference season! This year the British Youth Council attended the Labour party conference in Liverpool and then the Conversative party conference in Birmingham. This is where MPs, party delegates and other people interested in politics attend to shape policy, network and listen to important discussions. We were there alongside other youth organisations at the Youth Zone of each conference. We spoke about a lot of important issues, but the main topics we focused on in our events were:
- Mental health
- Climate change
- Votes at 16
Why is it important for us to be in these spaces? Well, we make sure that the topics that our members and other young people care about are listened to and discussed in these spaces of power, so we get commitment and see actions take place to advance our causes going forward. We spent our days talking to many people including MPs, local councillors and people from influential organisations – all of which displayed a shared interested in supporting young people.
Votes at 16
Decisions are made all the time about the future of young people and the communities they live in. However, without the right to vote, young people have a limited voice in our democracy to help shape change through policy. Votes at 16 is something the British Youth Council has been campaigning on for decades, but it has been great to reinvigorate our efforts to lobby politicians for a lower voting age as part of a recent 3-year partnership with The Body Shop.
At the conferences, we sought commitment from MPs to support our Votes for 16 campaign. Some were very supportive; others were unfortunately reluctant to back the campaign. Thankfully, we do have a broad level of support from many political parties on this campaign, however we must continue working hard to lobby the government and other key individuals to make this campaign become a reality.
Another of the things we flagged at the conferences was that we don’t currently have a Youth Minister. This means we do not have an MP in the House of Commons who is responsible for young people’s interests. Meanwhile, our counterparts in other European countries have a Youth Minister in government! It is clear that young people in the UK keep getting forgotten about. Thankfully we did get support at both conferences on this issue.
It’s important now more than ever, especially during this cost of living crisis, that young people are seen and heard. Let’s use our collective power to make positive change.
If you want to get involved with the Votes at 16 campaign and don’t know how, we’d recommend you get involved in your local youth council, or an organisation affiliated with the British Youth Council! We have just recruited a Votes at 16 Youth Action Group who will be coordinating activities across the UK you can get in touch with at: email@example.com.