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What do we want?

  • Enable 16 and 17 year olds to influence key decisions that affect their lives.

  • Bring equality between 16 and 17 year-olds in across the UK.

  • We want to challenge the stigma surrounding the mental health of young people.

As the national youth council of the UK, the British Youth Council has coordinated the Votes at 16 Coalition and campaigned on the issue for over 20 years. Our values are centered on being youth-led, empowering the voices of young people in society, and ensuring that no young person is disadvantaged in any way.

We are also the Secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Votes at 16. Through the APPG, we work with MPs across the political spectrum on winning Votes at 16 through Parliament.

To continue our work we've been given a grant through the UK Democracy Fund, coordinated by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, to work with young people across 15 constituencies and build up campaigning capacity on Votes at 16. We're also proud to be working with The Body Shop to give young people a say on who runs the country and makes decisions about their future. As part of our major partnership, we'll be reminding decision-makers that the future is ours too.

If you're an organisation:

Send this form to your MP to find out if they support Votes at 16!

If you're an individual:

Send this form to your MP to find out if they support Votes at 16.

What is the Youth Action Group?

A dynamic group of 30 young people who will lead and champion the votes at 16 campaigns in 15 targeted constituencies across the UK. Their three main objectives include; leading and informing important information about the campaign, engaging with fellow young people and decision makers and building support and encouraging the members of the public to get involved. 

If you’re interested in getting involved, apply now to the Youth Action Group for Votes at 16.

Apply to the Youth Action Group

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What do I need to know?

Why Votes at 16?

With 16 and 17 year olds being able to vote in Welsh and Scottish devolved and local elections, and support from the Northern Ireland Assembly and across public opinion, the case for Votes at 16 has never been stronger. In fact, there is now inequality across the UK on the basis of voting age.

Who supports Votes at 16?

The Labour Party, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party, the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland and Sinn Féin all support voting at 16 for all elections. The Conservative Party does not, however the “Father of the House” Sir Peter Bottomley, as well as other senior figures in the party do support the measure.

What are we asking for?

The Votes at 16 campaign is asking for equal voting rights across the whole of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland for all 16 and 17 year olds. See below to learn how current research supports this as a way to strengthen our democracy. 

If you’re a young person from any of the following constituencies, apply now to the Youth Action Group for Votes at 16

-     Evidence shows that young people do want to engage in democracy, however there are certain things which deter or restrict them from doing so; for example barriers in registration, lack of engagement with minorities by political parties and socio-economic marginalisation.

-   Turnout among 16-and 17-year-olds in Wales seems in line with that of other age groups, showing that young people do want to engage despite the barriers presented to them.

-    As few as 5% of schools are visited by a politician (digitally or otherwise) in the course of each school year (Weinberg, 2021). As part of this campaign we are determined to not only lower the voting age and stop there but further champion democracy and political participation through political literacy. This stats shows just how little to no engagement young people have formally with their local leaders. This gap demands attention. 

Academic research on this relatively under-developed topic in the UK suggests that positive political contact with politicians can overcome anti-political sentiments and stimulate future engagement among adults. Similarly, research with young people in schools points to a profound impact on youth expressive participation and political ambition (Weinberg et al, 2021)

-    Inequality in provisions which could now be led and further heightened by political inequality.  We have seen the government incorporate citizenship in the curriculum. However this is optional, depriving many schools of political and democratic knowledge.  

It is possible that these levels of political literacy delivery are not equal across all types of secondary schools (OXFAM, 2019) Research using CELS data (Hoskins et al., 2017), as well as recent small-n studies of students in England (Weinberg et al, 2021), suggests that access to democratic education in school might be shaped by young people’s social background. The unequal voting rights will form unequal political provisions and create a bigger gaps in inequality in our democracy. 

Lowering the voting age whilst involving stakeholders such as schools can be a successful way of enforcing this type of engagement in all schools, eliminating this inequality.