As we wind down for the festive season, I want to take this opportunity to reflect on the many successes of the British Youth Council during this year.
Whilst there have been numerous challenges, including a continued Cost of Living Crisis, strike action in various sectors and changes in Government, we have still managed to reach so many young people all across the country.
This year, we launched our Votes at 16 Manifesto and petition in partnership with The Body Shop to reinvigorate our long-running campaign of lowering the voting age to 16. If you agree that young people should have a say in decisions that affect them, join the 7,500 people who have already signed our petition!
We continue to work with young people from all walks of life. Across our programmes: 28% come from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities, 37% are LGBT, 8% live with a physical disability and 15% live with a cognitive or learning disability.
As part of our UK Youth Parliament programme, in partnership with the Department of Culture Media and Sport, Members of Youth Parliament (MYP’s) attended the Annual Conference at the University of Leeds in July to discuss and vote on which food-related issues they would debate in the House of Commons in November – issues that also formed the five chapters of the first UK Youth Parliament Bill.
The 12th House of Commons Annual Sitting concluded with a majority of Members of Youth Parliament voting to focus on the financing and funding of free school meals for the remainder of its ‘Food for Learning’ campaign. Earlier on in the day, select Members of Youth Parliament joined food charity Sustain at a letter hand-in at 10 Downing Street, in support of their SAY YES to School Food For All campaign. This campaign, much like Food for Learning, endorses the government’s extended provision of free school meals for all school-age children. Food for Learning will remain the UK Youth Parliament’s primary campaign until the new term begins early next year. Over the coming months, the young people will also conclude their year-long efforts to draft their Parliamentary bill.
We have also organised various fundraising events, including The Big Leap, challenges to celebrate our 75th Anniversary and Giving Tuesday, as well as 2 alumni supporter events. We are so grateful to everyone who took part, shared the challenges in their networks and donated to us – you are amazing!
This year, we continued to develop and implement our consultancy offer and membership strategy. It has been fantastic to welcome new members into the network, including League Leaders. 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 continued to engage our membership virtually at our Annual Council Meeting (ACM) where all policy motions were passed, including a restated commitment to prioritising young people’s mental health. We were also thrilled to welcome 3 new Trustees to our Board, including a new Treasurer!
We are developing our new Strategy! If you’re a young person in our membership or on our programmes, we want to hear from you! Our survey is live until January, so if you want to help shape the direction of the British Youth Council, we’d love to hear from you!
After having the honour of being awarded the Platinum Jubilee Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service from his Majesty the King, on behalf of her late Majesty the Queen, last year, I had the opportunity, along with staff and Trustees to attend an award reception in November. 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. Funding from the National Lottery continues to support our programmes and campaigns in youth democratic participation, and The Body Shop UK remains a steadfast supporter of our campaign to lower the voting age. We’re also delighted to welcome new funding from the Isla Foundation and Thomas Pocklington Trust, who have both supported our Access and Assistance for All programme. With the NHS deciding to move things in a new direction, we were sad to say goodbye to the NHS Youth Forum programme after 10 years back in the summer.
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 and our Board! They consistently go above and beyond for our Charity and young people, and I am very grateful to have such amazing colleagues!
As we look towards 2024, 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, from all of us here at the British Youth Council, we hope you enjoy the festive season and come back in the New Year refreshed and raring to go!