Chair of the British Youth Council Zara Khan takes a moment to consider all that’s happened over the last year.
As we wind down for the festive season, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on the many successes of the Charity during this past year.
Whilst there have been numerous challenges, including a Cost of Living Crisis, strike action and changes in Government, we have still managed to reach so many young people all across the country.
With your help, we’ve been able to reach close to 435,000 young people with our Make Your Mark annual ballot. Across our programmes: 22% come from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities, 27% are LGBT+ with 7% not identifying as the gender they were assigned at birth, 17% are disabled or with a life-limiting condition and 14% were in receipt of free school meals.
This year, we joined forces with The Body Shop to reinvigorate our long-running campaign of Votes at 16, whilst also speaking up on key issues like the Cost of Living crisis, anti-black police brutality and violence against women.
We have also organised various Fundraising events, including Run 31, the Big Bike Challenge, the Abseil Challenge, Gaming and our annual Big Give Challenge. We are so grateful to everyone who took part, shared the challenges in their networks and donated to us – you are amazing!
At the British Youth Council, we are led by young people, for young people, which is evidenced by our Board of Trustees – all of whom are between the ages of 16 and 25 when elected or appointed. As a result, our Trustees are called upon to promote the benefits of having young people on boards at various events for organisations such as The Body Shop and The Co-Operative.
This year saw the development and implementation of our consultancy offer and membership strategy. It has been fantastic to welcome new members into the network including The Traveller Movement, Football v Homophobia and the NCS Trust. Alongside this we have worked with organisations such as Impress, Derby Council and Youth Futures Foundation to increase their youth engagement and participation practices to ensure that young people are meaningfully shaping their work.
We continue to engage our membership virtually at our Annual Council Meeting (ACM) where we passed various policy motions, including the cost of living crisis, teaching racism in schools and recognising neurodiversity in girls and women, and welcomed four new Trustees to our Board!
The UK Youth Parliament House of Commons Annual Sitting returned for the first time since 2019 and saw over 240 MYPs debate the issues from the Make Your Mark Youth Consultation with Health and Wellbeing coming out as the top issue.
We continue to strengthen our links with our European and International colleagues via the European and Commonwealth Youth Forums. I had the opportunity to attend the European Youth Forum General Assembly in Albania with our UK Young Ambassador, Maurizo Cuttin; in June, representatives from the Commonwealth Youth Forum attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda.
We kicked off the development of our new Strategy at our recent Board meeting. This will be an ongoing process over the next 18 months, so watch this space!
It’s an honour to be awarded the Platinum Jubilee Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service from his Majesty the King, on behalf of her late Majesty the Queen. Thank you to the Judging Panel for recognising the amazing efforts of our young volunteers, which includes all the young people on our programmes and also the Board of Trustees. They all selflessly give up their time to ensure that all young people have the opportunity and resources to affect change and we are so grateful for their continued support.
All of this brilliant work is only possible because of the support of so many people. In particular I want to take a moment to thank the Blagrave Trust and Paul Hamlyn Foundation for their core funding support, and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation for their investment in our youth leadership programme. The Jack Petchey Foundation and Social Investment Business Fund have enabled us to expand our operational capacity in fundraising and income generation. Four Acre Trust have supported us for another year providing matched funding for our Big Give Christmas Challenge. And the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust alongside the National Lottery, are supporting our programmes and campaigns in youth democratic participation.
We also want to recognise and thank all our regular donors, alongside our British Youth Council Empower members, who give to us monthly and are the vital lifeblood of our organisation and all of our delivery partners, who work together with us to lift the voices of young people.
And last, but, most certainly not least, thank you to our Staff Team! They consistently go above and beyond for our Charity and our Young People, and the Board and I are very grateful to have such amazing colleagues!
As we look towards 2023, we will continue to ensure: young people are empowered to speak up on the issues that matter to them, their voices are heard by decision-makers and we build on the brilliant work that we have done this year. But for now, I hope you enjoy the festive season and come back in the New Year refreshed and raring to go!