Policy plays a big role in our work here at the British Youth Council. It is driven directly from the manifestos of the UK Youth Parliament and the British Youth Council. These important documents, like all the work we do, are formed and reviewed by young people depicting what local and international issues matter most to them. The motions put forth in these documents also include the British Youth Council’s annual priority topics, which young people actively go on to campaign on, with one of our biggest campaigns being the Votes at 16 campaign. With the help of many other organisations, coalitions with the same aims, and government groups we are involved with such as All Party Parliamentary Groups, campaigns like this in particular have gone on to make real change in other parts of the UK.
Our policy work as helped young people interact and engage with various political stakeholders in a wide range of programmes. Some of these include the Covid-19 Task Force Enquiry, the DCMS Youth Review, and the Youth Voice Group, who have worked to pair young people with government departments such as the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Cabinet Office to consult on topics such as domestic abuse. They have helped us to create platforms and opportunities where young people can feel empowered to speak up on important matters that affect their lives, and make relevant changes.
Another programme led by young people is the Youth Select Committee. This has showcased the real importance of our policy work, having launched their report on knife crime in 2019, which the Government has acknowledged and responded to. Prior this report, young people facilitated various roundtables, consultations, and meetings forming crucial relationships with political leaders and community organisations also keen to dismantle the knife crime epidemic.
Finally, to shine light on the amazing international team and their tremendous engagement within international policy. The British Youth Council currently have two of our UK Young Ambassadors actively serving and representing on international boards; the Commonwealth Youth Council and The European Youth Parliament. Our international team help represent the young people in our community on international issues such as the environment and gender-based violence, having recently written a joint letter with the European Youth Forum to our Foreign Office calling for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. In all, young people have shown tremendous commitment to making positive change in the world of policy.
If you care about our policy work which enables us to empower young people and provide them with a platform to speak up and be heard, please show your support with a small donation, or sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with our activities!
When I was first elected to the board I truly felt I had gotten there on sheer luck. How could I, a 19 year old living in Devon, have ended up on the board of a national charity? And, it’s a worry I had again last year when our members elected me as Chair at 23.
In the months since I was elected as chair I have been thinking a lot about “imposter syndrome” and particularly what it means for us at British Youth Council. This is probably a rather unconventional look at imposter syndrome.
The concept of imposter syndrome relies on a belief that your talent or qualifications do not meet the threshold for holding a particular role or office. But when the role is without a set list of qualifications, like being a trustee, it can be a bit more complicated; this isn’t a role that says you require certain A-Level grades, a particular degree, or 5 years professional experience.
This role requires you to bring a diverse range of skills, and some of those skills will be different to other people on the board. This is how we make sure that as a board we are comprehensive so we can cover all areas. This is how we make sure we have good governance. In my non-British Youth Council life, I work in Parliament. I bring a knowledge of policy to the board, but I will never claim to be a finance or risk whiz.
Knowing what you bring to the table is a skill set in itself. It is the ability to assess our own strengths and weaknesses, and identify where we might need help. This doesn’t make you an imposter – it makes you smart.
I take issue with the idea of imposter syndrome, especially in volunteering and elected roles like being a British Youth Council trustee. When our trustees are elected or appointed they have been through multiple application and interview rounds. This process is designed to ensure that they have the right skills needed to be a good trustee. If they are elected they are presented to members who then make the decision about who is elected.
I think for me to say that I felt like an imposter as Chair of British Youth Council would be a bit insulting to the Search Group who reviewed my application and interviewed me and to the members who elected me. For me to say to all of those people that “you were wrong, I shouldn’t be here”, is undermining their credibility in making decisions.
So no, I don’t have imposter syndrome.
I might at times lack self confidence but that is far more likely to be that I am not an old, white man like most charity chairs rather than my ability to do the role. When members elected me as chair, I had already served four years on the board and brought with me experience from my life outside British Youth Council. To say that I got here on “luck”, is to ignore all the work I put in to acquire the skills and experience to be able to do this role well, it is also to undermine the judgment of those who elected me here.
I think a lot of the time we self diagnose ourselves with “imposter syndrome” instead of drawing attention to the systemic and structural barriers holding the most marginalized back. To ignore these barriers, to dress it up in a nice bow with an easy name of “imposter syndrome”, means that we will not be able to address them, work on them, and overcome them.
Earlier this year, we encouraged our supporters to take part in a challenge to walk, run or cycle 100km in one month, with the aim of raising money and awareness of the British Youth Council. We have absolutely loved keeping up with the participants as they embark on their challenges and work towards their fundraising targets.
We asked Dylan, one of the participants in this challenge, why he has chosen to support the British Youth Council in this way.
He said, “My name is Dylan and I am one of the [Members of Youth Parliament] for Surrey. I am fundraising through doing #100KinMay, where I walk, run or cycle 100 Kilometres in May! I chose to fundraise for the British Youth Council because I want to keep on seeing the amazing work that they do, and keep on holding events for young people. You can donate to my fundraising page using this link: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Dylan100KinMay.”
As the pandemic has reduced our physical activity, as well as the support that charities have been able to receive, fundraising through taking part in challenge events has become more significant than ever.
Challenge events act as a powerful tool to get people talking about a cause, as well as providing motivation to keep fit and see what you are capable of. With our 100km challenge not concluding until the end of June, it isn’t too late to sign up and get walking if you wish to get involved!
Whether you wish to walk, run, roll, cycle or swim for the British Youth Council, by participating in a challenge event you will be supporting young people to influence and inform the decisions that affect their lives.
If you have any questions, please contact Olivia on email@example.com
As of 17th May, fundraising in line with Government guidance has been able to resume as part of Step 3 of the Spring 2021 Roadmap.
However, there is still some way to go until all community fundraising activities can proceed. With that in mind, we would love to encourage you as British Youth Council supporters to get creative and fundraise in any way you can over the next few months.
Here are some ideas of ways that you can continue to help us as we gradually make our way out of lockdown:
- Do a sponsored silence at your school, university, or workplace to highlight the importance of Youth Voice.
- If you’re into art or baking, why not sell some artwork (prints work really well for mass-production) or bakes? This can be done easily on social media, or locally within your community, as long as you’re sure to comply with the rules.
- In keeping with our 2021 campaign to Stop Plastic Pollution, do a sponsored park or beach clean-up in your local community.
- Encourage your current or old school to hold a non-uniform day, where students and staff members can dress casually in exchange for a £1 or £2 donation
- Hire an entertainer for a Zoom performance. Charge your friends and family for tickets which cover the cost of the entertainer plus a small donation, and set up a donation link for guests to use throughout the evening.
If you need any information or help, we are here for you. Simply get in touch by emailing Olivia at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what you are planning, and we will support you throughout your campaign and make it a success.
And remember, if you wish to donate yourself, you can always visit our website to make a one-off donation or become one of our regular supporters.
The word ‘diversity’ can trigger a whole spectrum of emotions and thoughts. For many people from underrepresented backgrounds it often induces feelings of skepticism. Many organisations come out claiming to want more ‘diversity’ and that they appreciate ‘diversity’ but a lot of the time it can be perceived as insincere and merely a box ticking exercise, especially when they have a poor track record on taking action against inequalities. In these circumstances, diversity is superficial and is not embedded into the organisation’s strategy and culture. Most of the focus is on bringing ‘diversity’ in, and organisations often forget about the important steps; how do we make sure that these voices are: heard and empowered, have the influence to make meaningful change and actually feel safe and valued in this space.
The British Youth Council have always been ahead of the curve when taking action on inequalities. Our young people are so passionate about fighting injustices and over the years we have supported them to do amazing things such as: speaking out on trans rights in healthcare and health inequalities, supporting an LGBT-inclusive curriculum, supporting ethnic minorities, disabled, LGBT+, women and faith group liberation campaigns through Equality for Us, calling for an end to anti-Black police brutality and to violence against young women and girls.
As the British Youth Council’s lead representatives, the Board of Trustees, are responsible for guiding the strategic direction of the charity. Fighting inequalities is very important to our members and so we must insure that it is reflected in our Board and in our strategy.
The Board has been on a journey in improving representation. In previous years it was heavily male dominated, now the majority of the board are women. However we know we must do more. The goal is to ensure our Board is continuously reflective of the diverse mix of identities and backgrounds we have at membership level. We are looking inward to make sure our policies and processes are inclusive so it is a safe and empowering space for everyone.
At the British Youth Council we are not just saying we want more ‘diversity’, we have looked at our Board and reflected on who are the underrepresented groups and we have clearly stated who we think are missing at the table. We welcome applications from all eligible young people, and this year we are particularly keen to receive applications from young people who:
- are aged 16 to 21;
- live in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland;
- Identify as having a disability or life limiting condition.
- Identify as Black, Asian or from a minoritised ethnic community.
- Identify as LGBTQ+
As a Black woman applying to be on the Board last year, seeing a majority white board and being the only Black person running for a trustee position I had concerns around the work done on inequalities at the highest level of the charity and concerns around having the ability to be successful in the recruitment process. I am now more aware of the great work done at membership level and how well the staff support our members. However I know that it is not enough and we must continuously work towards making sure all levels of the organisation is representative. The Board is passionate about this issue too and we hope that this year we can make more progress towards improving representation as well by embedding this work in our strategy. Overall, we can continue being a charity that is ahead of the curve on fighting against inequalities.
If you would like to join our Board of Trustees, find out more here: https://www.byc.org.uk/members/trustee-recruitment
The deadline for all applications is Monday 21st June 2021
In October 2020, I was elected as a UK Young Ambassador and Representative of the British Youth Council at the European Youth Forum. Not quite the news I was expecting during my first weeks at university, but I was delighted to be elected.
What is the European Youth Forum?
The European Youth Forum is the largest youth organisation in the world and represents tens of millions of European young people via delegates from both National Youth Councils, such as the British Youth Council, and international non-governmental youth organisations such as YMCA. We work to increase the participation of young people and youth organisations in society, and we are a recognised partner of the European Union, the Council of Europe and the United Nations.
Whilst there are many elements to the work of the European Youth Forum, and as UK Young Ambassadors we always strive to work internally within the British Youth Council as well as internationally, our main events are the biannual General Assembly and Council of Members meeting. At the 2020 General Assembly, we elected members to the board of the Youth Forum and the wonderful Tom Matthews from the British Youth Council fought a successful campaign to gain a place. Whilst this is an exceptional achievement and we are all very proud of Tom, it left me as the lead delegate with the voting responsibilities for last week’s Council of Members meeting.
Council of Members meeting 2021
Although we had hoped otherwise, April 17th and 18th found us back online instead of Brussels for this year’s Council of Members meeting. By ‘us’ I mean Tom, me and our last-minute-stand-in-extra-delegate-extraordinaire Dave Morris, policy officer of the British Youth Council. Dave’s presence meant that I wasn’t bound to the screen for every single second that the meeting was active.
Even though the meeting was online, there is something special about the atmosphere of a European Youth Forum meeting that it is still felt virtually, and as we sat at our respective screens, across Europe, there was a real sense of togetherness.
The main body of the meeting was taken up with elections for the Advisory Council on Youth for the Council of Europe. They are one of our partner organisations and we send the majority of their members from within our own member organisations, following the election process. Usually, we would be able to hold hostings in person and get to know the candidates personally. However, I found myself jumping on Skype, Facebook, WhatsApp, you name it- we tried it, calls in efforts to decide who was going to get the vote of the British Youth Council.
To be the person making those decisions on behalf of the British Youth Council is such a huge privilege and a role to be taken seriously. We also successfully passed a Motion on the Human Rights violation in Western Sahara and on the admission of the National Youth Council of Ukraine. I’m delighted to be able to say that we are continuing to grow and the European Youth Forum now has one more member organisation!
The way forward
As we adjust to life outside the European Union we face not only practical obstacles, such as the loss of Erasmus+ funding for non-formal educational programmes, but we must also adapt to a new international position. For this reason, the words of the Vice-President of the European Youth Forum, Frédéric Piccavet, really struck me. When speaking about the work of the Youth Forum he said, “that’s why I believe that we are stronger together” and as we go on into the post-Brexit era, we would be wise to remember this. Just because we are no longer within the European Union it does mean that the UK can or should foster strong and meaningful relationships within Europe because, fundamentally, we are at our best when we work together; something demonstrated clearly by the work of the European Youth Forum.
TRIGGER WARNING: Violence towards women, sexual harassment, sexual abuse
Two weeks ago we celebrated international women’s day, coming together to acknowledge and thank the women in our lives. The women who inspire us, support us, who we look up to, love, and cherish. We also reflected on the history of women’s rights and paid respects to those who lost their freedom and lives whilst advocating for gender equality. It was a bittersweet day for many.
Devastatingly, that same week we mourned the death of 33 year old Londoner Sarah Everard.
Sarah was a woman just trying to get home. She wore brightly coloured clothing, she called a friend to let her know she was on her way and she took a route consisting mainly of busy roads and well lit streets. Sarah did everything women are told to do in order to keep safe in the streets, but tragically, her life was taken. Sarah’s death has been upsetting for all but has particularly affected women and girls, who are acutely aware of the disproportionate dangers they face every single day. We know this because we, as young women, share in the fear, frustration and sadness that has been expressed in response to Sarah’s tragic death. Sarah’s death has also prompted us to remember other young women who have sadly lost their lives, including those who have, like Blessing Olusegun who’s case sadly still remains unsolved. Some of us have also shared or been reminded of our own experiences of gender-based abuse. We are aware that sadly, our experiences are not isolated.
Just this week, UN Women UK have reported that 97% of young women in the UK have experienced sexual harassment or assault; often in spaces where we are supposed to feel safe like the home, school or on our streets. The British Youth Council firmly believes that all young people should be protected from sexual harassment, and their feelings and experiences taken seriously. No person should have to feel threatened because of their gender.
To all women: young people, our female colleagues, family and friends, we want you to know that we hear you. Your experiences are valid and living in this continued state of fear is not okay. As a board, we have collectively agreed more needs to be done to stand up against injustices towards women and marginalised genders, of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
We have written to Liz Truss, Minister for Women and Equalities, to express our deep concerns about women’s safety and the need to ensure the voices of young women are at the heart of decision making. Current protections are not enough to keep us safe, and young women need to be at the forefront of shaping a safer future. Although we do not have all of the answers, we are coming together with a shared passion and determination to challenge the systems, practices and behaviors which allow these awful crimes against women to continue to be committed.
As young women, we understand it has been emotional for many to process the events of this last week and the outpouring of personal testimonies and reflections. Our personal and communal reflections continue and our thoughts are with all of you during this difficult time.
We hear you. We believe you. We stand with you.
This blog has been written collaboratively by six female members of the British Youth Council’s board of trustees.
I have direct debits for the causes I care about, and like lots of people across the UK, I think about where my money could help the most. One of the organisations I’m passionate about is the British Youth Council. I gained so much valuable confidence and experience by being on the trustee board over a decade ago, and I’ve always wanted to give back in some way.
During Coronavirus, people’s thoughts also turned to death. According to Farewill, there has been a 267% rise in people making wills from home during the crisis.
My mind was already focussed on loss, as sadly my husband died suddenly in 2018. He died without a will, which caused extra problems. After coming through the worst of the grief I decided I was going to do more to help other people prepare better for death.
Most people in the UK do not have a will – some estimates put it at 60%. The older you get, the more likely you are to have got round to it. But I’m on a mission to change that and encourage younger people to think about their wills.
So the first step I took was sorting my own will out in 2020, and in it I left a gift to the British Youth Council. I felt really proud to put the organisation down for what is called a pecuniary gift, which means that the British Youth Council will receive a specific sum of money, rather than a percentage of the money I leave behind. You can do it as a percentage if you prefer. I now have the title of being the first known British Youth Council alumnus to have left a gift in their will!
This process is called ‘legacy giving’ and is estimated to be worth £2.2bn a year to UK charities. It can be an incredibly useful stream of income, because organisations can model for the long term future when they know they have legacy income. However, my experience of working in the charity sector in my career, most people choose to give to local charities or the very large ones. Mid-size and national organisations can often miss out because it’s hard to attract legacy giving, and youth organisations may be not the most easy place to have conversations about death.
Dealing with death is something that many young people have to go through. A parent of children under 18 dies every 22 minutes in the UK; so we need to change how we talk about death as a society.
To fulfil my new mission, my second step was to set up a new type of online will writing service – I’ve called it Lemons.Life and I’ve launched it this year to target a younger age group to do their will. A traditional will for an older person might contain information on what they wanted to do with their property or jewellery, but actually younger people are starting to consider their ‘digital afterlife’ as well as their physical possessions. What would you want your family to do with your Facebook or all the photos you have online?
And, in the end the most important thing to consider is what you would like to have happen to your body and what happens at your funeral. These can seem like really difficult questions and they are. That’s why I hadn’t done my will before now.
For most people, there is plenty of time to change your mind, and update your will throughout life, but I hope that one day we all get into the habit of writing a will. I want it to become normal and easy – and I also would love to see charities like the British Youth Council to be able to open up a new stream of long term funding so that they can ensure they are able to empower young people in the next 75 years.
Earlier this month, apprentices, employers, and learning providers were celebrating the UK’s 14th annual National Apprenticeship Week. This was an opportunity to celebrate apprenticeships and showcase how they have benefitted employers and supported people of various ages and backgrounds to become more confident, skilled, and work ready.
I went to a grammar school and usually the next step after A Levels is going to university. However, I was not the type of person who knew exactly what they wanted to do from a young age. I didn’t have a specific career in mind, so I wanted to explore my options before making any life-changing decisions. I applied for work experience at Walsall Council and ended up in the Community Cohesion and Equalities Team. After a few months, they advertised an apprenticeship vacancy in the team for a Level 3 Business Administration Apprentice. I applied, got through to the interview stage, and was successful in securing the position. I’ve now progressed onto a Level 4 Project Management Apprenticeship and I’m currently working on a Central Government funded pilot project around community cohesion and integration. My role involves managing Equality, Diversity and Inclusion projects which support underrepresented group, such as women, ex-offenders, and ethnic minority communities, into employment.
Most of my family went to university, but I’m the first person to do an apprenticeship so it’s been a learning curve. However, as a result of my apprenticeship, my confidence, skills and knowledge have grown, and the work is rewarding as it positively impacts local people. I’ve also had the opportunity to join the Young Apprenticeship Ambassador Network (YAAN), a national network of current and past apprentices who share their apprenticeship story to inspire others and the Association of Apprentices, a new membership organisation for apprentices that will provide support, information, guidance and social opportunities for apprentices.
Apprenticeships often get a bad reputation and there can be negative assumptions made about apprentices and why they chose to do an apprenticeship rather than taking the traditional route of going to university.
‘Apprenticeships are only for young people’ – Apprenticeships are open to anyone who is 16 years old and above. There is no upper age limit. The apprenticeship levy is used by employers to upskill their current staff as well as new apprentices, so you can be in a senior position and have the opportunity to undertake a degree apprenticeship.
‘Apprenticeships are for people who didn’t get into university’ – An apprenticeship is a brilliant opportunity for students who prefer a hands-on approach to learning and want to go straight into work and start earning. For most apprenticeships, you need a C grade average in your GCSEs. However, some more technical apprenticeships can require higher grades at A Level and GCSE and competition for these can be tough.
‘Apprenticeships are an easy option compared to university’ – An apprenticeship requires you to work a full time job, usually 37 hours a week, and also complete assignments, coursework, and exams to qualify. There are so many demands on your time whilst doing an apprenticeship and time management is key. Apprenticeships are definitely not an easy option.
‘An apprenticeship is not a proper job’ – Apprentices are given real responsibility. There’s a myth that apprentices are lumped with tedious tasks like making tea. Apprentices need to cover a wide range of tasks in order to successfully complete their apprenticeship. Their employer is required to give apprentices practical and relevant work that supports their professional development. It would not make sense for an employer to make a financial investment to take on an apprentice and then give tasks with little value to the business. Apprentices work alongside experienced professionals on projects that have a real impact.
What are the benefits of doing an apprenticeship?
- You get a recognised qualification
- First hand industry experience
- Opportunity to learn from seasoned professionals
- Earn a salary from day one
- Your qualification fees are paid by your employer which means no debt
- Paid annual leave
- Time during work hours to complete your qualification
- 1-to-1 support from your assessor, line manager and team
- Improves your employability
Doing an apprenticeship is the best decision I have ever made. Having that real life work experience, as well as a qualification, are invaluable. However, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to guaranteeing your dream career. What’s important is thoroughly researching and considering all your options and weighing the pros and cons. It’s a big decision so don’t make it lightly. Also, don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd and forge your own path. Who knows, you may decide that an apprenticeship is the best choice for you.
In 2017 the Youth Select Committee held an inquiry on tackling negative body image amongst children and young people. I submitted written evidence to the inquiry as the leader of the Young Persons Network (YPN) in Herefordshire, a network I created to give 11-18 year-olds a voice. Once the committee had received my written evidence, I was called forward to give oral evidence in Parliament. The committee felt I could represent a section of young people who had been previously overlooked.
In my oral evidence, I spoke openly and honestly about the following:
- How the ways young people interact with each other on social media can promote negative body image.
- How disabled young people can be bullied because of their appearance.
- Why it is not just about the way you look but about what others can read or see online.
- How young people with disabilities are seen as ‘different’ within society.
- Why disability awareness is needed.
- How young people living with disabilities can have body confidence issues.
Today, I still see body image as an issue, and sometimes I still suffer with body confidence issues because I have a physical disability. However, this hasn’t stopped me speaking up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. The inquiries are a great example of giving young people the opportunity to speak up and hopefully help to change an issue they are passionate about.
The British Youth Council have held eight inquiries to date, with topics including transport, mental health, and work experience. I strongly believe that without these inquiries young people could be stopped from speaking out about important issues that affect and matter to them. If I hadn’t been given the unique opportunity to give evidence on body image, then young people from Herefordshire would not have been heard.
The British Youth Council do incredible work in ensuring that young people across the UK have their voices heard, and have done so for many years by running programmes such as the NHS England Youth Forum, UK Youth Parliament, and more recently, the Bank of England Youth Forum. The Youth Select Committee might just be a small part of this work, but their inquiries are a result of the Make Your Mark ballot, an annual
UK-wide referendum where over a million young people vote.
It was a rare opportunity to speak up to tackle negative body image, and the opportunity started my youth voice journey. Young people really do need the opportunity to be heard by powerful decision-makers, and inquiries are one way to achieve this. My appearance in front of the committee was also an opportunity to put the young people of Herefordshire on the map. I urge all young people to take part should any opportunities such as inquiries arise.
I along with other young people called for ‘A Body Confident Future’ via the Youth Select Committee inquiry back in 2017, and I continue to make this call today in 2021. The impact of these inquiries is obvious as I know that all the young people who participate in the inquiries feel the same as I do about wanting young people to be heard.
Without the support of the British Youth Council staff who take the time to support the young people leading the inquiries, they simply wouldn’t happen. For that reason alone, I would like to thank all those involved. Every year, the British Youth Council runs the Make Your Mark ballot to give all those 11 to 18 year olds the opportunity to vote on the issues that matter to them. The committee chooses one of the top three issues that are highlighted to investigate further. For example, in 2017, the committee chose to look at body image.
When I decided to write this blog about the impact of the Youth Select Committees, I really wanted to get across the positive effect that speaking up and being part of the big discussions can have on young people. The young people who are called to give oral evidence are those who are passionate about the topic which comes across in their written evidence and the oral evidence sessions. When I wrote and gave my evidence to the 2017 inquiry I believe that my passion for this topic really came across and I could really see this when I watched the recording back recently.
I also provided a written submission to the inquiry on work experience in 2018 as this is another area which I am both passionate about and have a lot of experience in. The Youth Select Committee inquiries allows us to look deep into the issue, and ensures the reasons for change are highlighted in the committee’s report.
I would urge the British Youth Council to continue running these inquiries each year as they really do have a positive impact on the lives of young people especially those who are involved and I believe that I am a shining example of this.