Blogs and news about lowering the voting age to 16.
I hear this so often from people, in regards to what many view as young people’s political disengagement. Not only is this stance is overly-simplistic and lacking in nuance, it’s fatalistic. It takes no accountability for encouraging further political engagement via traditional, more visible and measurable channels. If this argument were the case one would have to ask, chicken-or-egg-style; what came first? The de-prioritisation of young people within policy and mainstream political channels, or the supposed disengagement of young people from said channels? It’s easy to draw loose correlations void of analysis, but if we truly care about empowering young people to be effective political actors we must do more.
An example of a small action that would contribute to removing obstacles from the paths of budding young political actors, would be to avoid calling elections in the middle of exam periods. Many students have flagged this as an issue; not just finding the time to physically vote during such a crucial point in our lives, but to go through the respective party manifestos to make a thoroughly informed decision, also taking the time to understand where votes would be most effective (in the constituency of their university address or permanent home). This requires a fair understanding of how our political system works, yet no party has taken responsibility for making political education compulsory. In spite of this, over 90,000 young people aged 18 to 24 registered to vote on the 21st May this year alone. Last year there was a 64% turnout for the same age group during the EU referendum (not too far off the average turnout).
A UNISON report has shown that between April 2010 – 2016 an estimated £387m was cut from youth service spending. We, as young people, have had to endure consistent chipping away of the provisions we need within society, from the disappearance of youth clubs, careers services and the merging of youth work with other social services and as a result a reduction in specialist youth work roles. Young people have endured the tripling of university fees, funding to support them in education such as EMA scrapped, alongside housing benefit being stripped from 18-21 year olds.
Young people’s contributions to society and experiences are often downplayed to our disservice. Our current Prime Minister recently ruled out lowering the voting age to 16 if her Party is re-elected into office on June 8th. At the age of 16 we are eligible to join the army, and eligible to pay tax in a country we are not given the right to vote in. A common argument raised here is that young people lack experience. Yet it is counterintuitive to expect anyone other than a young person to have a greater real time experience of what it is like to be a young person. Of course, it is impossible to do this area justice in one blog post, but I hope this highlights just a few things that we must all consider when it comes to empowering young people politically, so that we can have a strong and stable government, changing Britain’s future for the many not the few.
As a fifteen-year-old, I campaigned in the Scottish Independence referendum but I could not vote. When I turned sixteen, I was trusted as a door-to-door canvasser for general election but was not seen mature enough to vote. At seventeen, the government successfully denied the voice of over 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds in the UK. No, I did not vote for Brexit but I still have to live it! Now finally it’s the time. My polling card is more than just a document which gives information about the election. It is a symbol of empowerment to me. I finally felt I too had arrived.
Young people engaging in politics is essential but politicians listening to young people is equally important. They were quick to criticise the low turnout but did they try to solve it? Why would a young person be interested to get pale, stale and male back in the office? When we only hear criticism on our behaviour during their term in office. Don’t get me wrong. Yes, young people do care about politics but we are continuously alienated by politicians. Political figures need to train themselves to be role models. They need to show us their human side. We (young people) are sick and tired of seeing their immature, petty and mean behaviour.
Even after all of this, I do see an increase in the numbers of my constituents engaging in the election. More and more of them are out helping their local candidates, leafleting, and canvassing. They now believe some political parties are finally offering a benefit to them directly. This time, not all politicians are just diagnosing but actually proving they can cure it.
According to the evidence compiled at the London School of Economics, turnout among young people aged 18 to 24 in the EU referendum was almost double the level that has been widely reported since polling day. This was the highest turnout for this age group since the 1990s. Young people once again proved that they are passionate and want to make a difference.
Now when the UK is triggering Article 50 and will be making decision that will change our future forever, I believe young people deserve a say in the Brexit negotiation. After all we are the generation that will live the longest with the outcomes of this. We want government to show us the best deal for all young people. We want them to prove us where the funding for university degrees and research placement that came from the EU will come from. We want a say in where the UK invests money after we have left the EU, as we will no longer be paying into the European Union. It is the time to involve us not leave us out in this key and crucial decision!
The British Youth Council is launching ‘Our Vision, Our Parliament’, a manifesto which outlines our vision for the next Parliament. The manifesto sets out the six priorities that we want the next government to address the issues of young people including better mental health provision for young people and an opportunity for young people to influence Brexit negotiations.
Young people want the voting age to be lowered to 16, mental health services for young people to be improved, the introduction of a real living wage for everyone, the restoration of funding for youth services, first aid taught in schools and the opportunity to actively participate and meaningfully engage in the Brexit negotiations.
The British Youth Council has written to 17 political parties – including the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, UKIP, SNP and Labour. Each party has been asked to respond with their thoughts on our top six issues. All responses will be published ahead of polling day on June 8th.
The manifesto forms part of our wider General Election campaign calling on politicians to not just talk about young people but to listen to their concerns and do something about them. Following the General Election, the British Youth Council will be lobbying the Government and calling on politicians to keep their promises to young people.
Anna Barker, Chair, British Youth Council said: “It’s imperative that candidates across the country listen to the issues that young people are passionate about and tell young people what they plan to do about their priorities. I’m really looking forward to hearing back from each political party so we can share their responses with young people.”
If you were to google ‘millennials are’, the words that come after are not inspiring; ‘lazy’, ‘stupid’ or ‘screwed’. This isn’t by chance, it’s part of a wider narrative.
My generation – those who are currently under 25 – are constantly undervalued and undermined.
We’re seen as selfish and entitled, bone-idle and boorish.
Nothing could be further from the truth – young people care. We care about our families and our friends, our schools and hospitals. We care about our future employment and the future of the earth.
Why are we not listened to, or taken seriously?
The first answer is very simple – often our legitimate voices are taken away from us. It simply makes no sense not to enfranchise 16 and 17 year-olds.
The Scottish Referendum showed us that 16 and 17 year-olds will make their views heard if given the opportunity and that all votes are equal to others.
The idea that you can work, pay taxes, marry or die for your country but can’t vote for the people who make those decisions – based on arguments that have essentially boiled down to mental capability and societal norms – is obviously nonsense.
They’re the same arguments that were used to not extend the vote to women and BME communities, many years ago.
We would urge the next government to extend this long denied right, which is quickly becoming a consensus opinion.
This could be the first step of many in making politics accessible to young people – electoral reform, localism, greater representation for young people and digitising our democracy would all give voice to those who are currently voiceless.
The second is that it’s far too easy to ignore us, even when we turn up. Brexit being the prime example. 70% of young people voted Remain, and were outvoted by older generations who won’t have to see the long-term consequences.
Which was an act of democracy, which we respect. What we cannot respect is the systematic undermining of the voices of young people over the single most important issue of the next 10 years. Education funding, Erasmus Plus, free movement, employment and jobs will be shaped for generations to come without input from the generation that it will come down on.
We would urge the next government to involve young people in the future of Brexit as soon as possible.
This will be the shape of the next five years, and a priority for the Government. There are opportunities in Brexit, as well as risks – A Brexit that puts young people’s futures at risk is not a Brexit we can get behind. Young people need to be able to travel to work and study, to share with different cultures and to have clean air to breath.
One clear ask of the next government – give young people the voice we deserve.
Because if you give young people the power over our futures – we won’t just change a Google search term – we’ll change the world.
The Government have confirmed they have no plans to introduce a lowering voting age of 16 for the General Election which will take place on Thursday 8th June 2017. The British Youth Council are disappointed to learn that yet again 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds will be denied a vote.
In response to a petition calling for the voting age to be lowered, the Government states ‘the House of Commons has debated the question of lowering the voting age in a number of contexts, and has repeatedly voted against lowering it.’ Regrettably, 16 and 17-year-olds will not just miss out on the snap election, but will also miss out on the May elections which will see the election of six newly-created combined authority mayors.
Since the Scottish Independence Referendum, in which 16 and 17-year-olds were given a vote, young people have been turned away from casting their vote on eight separate occasions, without including the numerous by-elections. In 2014, 75% of 16 and 17-year-olds in Scotland voted in the independence referendum, a vote that set a precedent and should serve as proof that when young people feel they have an authentic opportunity to influence change they will take part.
Over the past 14 years, the Votes at 16 Coalition have been tracking support for a lower voting age. Their research indicates all Members of Scottish Parliament in unanimous support, huge increases in support within the House of Lords and over 40% of Members of Parliament declaring their support for votes at 16. We’re hoping the common sense argument will prevail – alongside a ‘curriculum for life’ with citizenship/political education and easy voter registration, votes at 16 is not only good for the future of democracy but a necessary change.
Anna Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “It’s disappointing that 16 and 17-year-olds will be denied a chance to vote in one of the most important elections of our lifetime. A precedent was set following the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, and yet eight elections later 16 and 17-year-olds across the UK still haven’t been entrusted with the vote.
“It is extremely regrettable that the common sense argument has not prevailed. When young people feel they have an authentic opportunity to influence change they will take part.”
The Prime Minster has announced her proposal for an early General Election. The election is due to take place on Thursday 8th June 2017, however, Members of Parliament will vote on the proposal in the House of Commons on Wednesday 19th April 2017. In response, the British Youth Council calls on parties and politicians across the country to talk to young people not about them.
Young people are passionate about the future and must be given an authentic opportunity to have a say, influence the debate and set out their priorities. The upcoming election will hold more importance than usual as political parties set out their plans for a ‘Post-Brexit Britain’ and young people must be included in that conversation.
We’ll be reminding parties to keep the promises they have made to young people – especially the five priority issues set out in our 2015 General Election Manifesto ‘Our Parliament. Our Vision’. The issues included improving mental health provision, saving youth services and creating a real living wage for everyone.
The June snap election will also mark yet another election in which 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds will be denied a vote. We call on all parties to ensure that all 16 and 17-year-olds of the future are no longer turned away from the ballot box.
The British Youth Council will be contacting the Government and the Electoral Commission to discuss voter registration for the General Election. We proudly supported sector-wide efforts to get young people registered to vote in the lead up to 2015 General Election and the EU Referendum in 2016. In the meantime, the British Youth Council is urging young people across the country to register to vote as soon as possible to ensure they can have a direct say in the direction of the country.
We are currently working with Parliament to establish how this will impact the Youth Select Committee inquiry on Body Image and the UK Youth Parliament which is due to sit in the House of Commons in November 2017. More details will be released in due course.
Anna Barker, Chair, British Youth Council said: “Politicians across the country must engage young people in a meaningful way ahead of the announced snap election. They have 7 weeks to convince young people that they can deliver on the issues that matter to them. Those who seek to represent us must talk to us and not about us.
“It is however of great concern to us that once again 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds will be denied a vote in an election. Political parties now have a real opportunity to ensure that this is an issue of the past. Empower young people and give them the voice they deserve.
“Lastly, I’d like to call on young people to register to vote, research the issues, and then turn out on June 8th! Young people will be greatly affected by the next Government’s decisions, particularly as our next Government will be tasked with negotiating how we leave the European Union. Let’s send a clear message to politicians in June!”
There’s a real problem I see increasingly, the more I get involved with youth voice and charity work.
The problem –
Young people, on the whole, have been separated and isolated from politics and the importance it has over our lives.
Now you’re probably thinking I blog a lot about big problems; well this would be a crap blog if I blogged about the food I made today. And I like to think the readership (?) I have is a little bit interested in big problems.
This separation from politics I mention is partly a separation of our own transient ignorance – I don’t say ignorance with offence here – and partly a separation by our government which doesn’t teach young people to become voters any more than it teaches young people to become citizens.
The education system in the UK is, therefore, unfit for the purpose.
We approach the government with caps in our hands and wonder why nothing becomes of our requests. Approaching any issue in this manner, I have realised, denotes a superiority of the request-granters. Parliament is made up of our representatives, and it’s crucial to remember that.
It’s always more productive to approach with ideas and to get those ideas into the heads of every decision maker who will listen, and even those who don’t care to listen.
Young people often have no knowledge of how to vote, or how to protest to vote.
We make petitions, and we tweet about things.
Not a problem, any involvement is involvement.
However, Youth councils can be talking shops for CV hunters (as a side note, this is an area in which the British Youth Council are fully exempt), young people are told that they are world changers and action takers, and so often do not understand the drive and skills needed to enact their ideas.
I’ve been talking to a few Welsh politicians over the past few weeks in my capacity as UK Young Ambassador, and a common trend of comment is being told that young people are in the most creative periods of their lives. We can be making the changes we want to see, not waiting in the wings, talking.
I have made the point in a previous blog but I feel it’s still worth making, if we as young people are only allowed a say and input in the future, then we will miss the point again.
If we are only allowed to be the future in the future – and until then we have to passively wait in the wings – then we will struggle with the same questions that our predecessors have struggled with.
Firstly, therefore, the primary step on this journey must be giving 16-year-olds the right to vote.
It must come from the people, all the best programs come from the people, and when it happens this advantage must be used.
Voter turnout among the 18-24-year-olds in the 2010 general election was around 40%.
16-17-year-olds can cause an embarrassment by turning up on election day in droves, while their older siblings stay at home.
Claimed turnout in the Scottish referendum for 16-17-year-olds was at 69%, markedly higher than the 54% of 18-24-year-olds.
What is key from the report on the Scottish referendum is the fact that those who discussed the referendum in schools felt higher levels of political confidence and understanding.
Schools can play a distinctive role, but only when they are allowed to do so.
So I’ve identified the issue and discussed some positive opinions relating to the matter.
Next week I’ll be creating a ‘how it can happen’ blog.
- Read Parliament’s research on votes at 16.
- Read about the British Youth Council’s campaign for votes at 16.
UK Youth Parliament has commenced their campaign to ensure all 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds can vote in elections. The aim of the year-long campaign is to build on the increasing support for a lower voting age of 16 in all elections and referenda. Today’s National Day of Action will see Members of Youth Parliament call on politicians and schools to take part in campaign activities such as talks, and events.
Over the next year, UK Youth Parliament will campaign, with the support of the Votes at 16 Coalition, to widen the conversation, increase support among decision makers and highlight young people’s current participation in democracy. The Votes at 16 Coalition has worked to make the case for votes at 16 since its establishment by the British Youth Council in 2003.
The campaign starts following the Make Your Mark ballot which took place in the autumn of 2016 which saw the issue become one of the top five issues with 112,680 young people nominating it as their most important issue. In a subsequent vote by Members of Youth Parliament in the House of Commons votes at 16 was chosen as the next national campaign.
Lucy Boardman, 17, Member of Youth Parliament for Stockport said: “Votes at 16 is gaining more and more support, and it’s vital that we keep this momentum going when the democratic voices of 16 and 17-year-olds continue to be ignored. It’s unacceptable that 1.5 million young people were denied a vote in the EU Referendum last year; a historical decision that will affect us for generations to come. We must continue to strive towards Votes at 16, to ensure that the voices and opinions of young people across the UK, are listened to. This year we’ll be calling on local authorities and decision makers to come out in support of Votes at 16, and give the next generation the chance to have their voices heard.”
Anna Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “The denial of 16 and 17-year-olds at the ballot box remains an issue that young people have challenged since as early as 1992. I’m delighted to hear Members of Youth Parliament across the country will be calling on local decision makers to support votes at 16. This year, UK Youth Parliament will think national, but act locally in its attempts to change minds and challenge the status quo. It’s time we had some parity on the issue. Scottish 16 and 17-year-olds have been empowered to vote. Now it’s right that young people across the UK are afforded and entrusted with the same rights.”
Over the past 14 years, the Votes at 16 Coalition have been tracking support for a lower voting age. Their research indicates all Members of Scottish Parliament in unanimous support, huge increases in support within the House of Lords and as many as for 41% of Members of Parliament declaring their support for votes at 16. Recently we’ve also seen local authorities such as Norwich City Council, come forward in support and this year we’re hoping to engage with even more local councils.
In 2014, 75% of 16 and 17-year-olds in Scotland voted in the independence referendum, a vote that has set a precedent and should serve as proof that when young people feel they have an authentic opportunity to influence change they will take part. We’re hoping the common sense argument will prevail – alongside a ‘curriculum for life’ with citizenship/political education and easy voter registration, votes at 16 is not only good for the future of democracy but a necessary change.
You can find out more about the campaign here: http://ukyouthparliament.org.uk/votesat16
For media enquires or to interview a Member(s) of Youth Parliament please contact:
Rhammel Afflick, Communications & Media Officer
firstname.lastname@example.org | +44 (0)20 7250 8376 | +44 (0)79 32 505 214
Notes to Editors
- UK Youth Parliament provides opportunities for 11-18-year-olds to use their elected voice to bring about social change through meaningful representation and campaigning.
- UK Youth Parliament is hosted and managed by the charity The British Youth Council. The British Youth Council is the National Youth Council of the UK. A youth-led charity, we empower young people aged 25 and under to influence and inform the decisions that affect their lives. We support young people to get involved in their communities and democracy locally, nationally and internationally, making a difference as volunteers, campaigners, decision-makers and leaders.
- ‘Votes at 16’ is the UK Youth Parliament’s 2017 campaign following a vote by Members of Youth Parliament at their House of Commons Sitting on Friday 11th November 2016.
- The Make Your Mark took place from Friday 12th August and Wednesday 5th October 2016. Young people were able to take part in online and via various printed ballots.
- Media spokespeople are available on request at various points throughout the campaign. To organise interviews please email email@example.com
What a year 2016 had been for everyone. We have had enough elections, referendums and political bombshells to last us a few years. But… this is only the start.
Amidst all of the political and economic uncertainty, I am proud to say that young people across the world and in the UK have been a constant source of inspiration. The thoughts and actions of so many youths have inspired millions and I am looking forward to seeing what comes next.
To reflect on the year at the British Youth Council we have had enormous amounts of inspiring young people volunteering their time to make a difference In their communities. From the Votes at 16 galvanising support to the election of our new priority campaigns. UK Youth Parliament had a record breaking year with 978,216 votes cast in the Make Your Mark campaign. Then they went on to brilliantly debate these issues in the House of Commons with Votes at 16 coming out on top and Curriculum for Life for England. The youth select committees from this year and last produced amazing reports that have continued to impact formal and informal decision making. Our EU referendum voter drive and post result consultation has been an enormous success that will take us into the new year as a key theme.
Internally we have seen a new generation of leadership flourish as we say goodbye to the previous. James Cathcart spent nearly a decade leading this organisation so brilliantly; it was an honour to be the Chair to assist him saying goodbye. The journey with our new leader and CEO has been a roller coaster of energy, dynamism and impact. I am thrilled to be in a new phase for the organisation which is being led superbly by Jo Hobbs, in which we will see amazing things happen; all in the belief of youth voice and youth social action.
Thank you to everyone who made this year so special and impactful. A personal thanks has to go to all of the tireless staff, volunteers and workers in the sector, and at the British Youth Council. They all make it all possible for so many. I’m wishing you all a happy Christmas, new year and holiday.
What will 2017 bring? I’m not sure how it will play out, but I do know that the British Youth Council will be front and centre of representing the views of young people. We will do this through our programmes, strategic review and in supporting our membership to get their voices heard. We will be spearheading the fight to make the world around us a more fair, equal and just society for all. With that in mind, I can’t wait for 2017 to start.
As a Member of Youth Parliament, I have the privilege of representing the views of young people and communicating them to visionaries and influencers. Following the Youth Parliament’s recent debates in the House of Commons, Tofumni, Oscar and myself, as Members of Youth Parliament, were invited to meet with David Lidington, Leader of the House of Commons, and Chris Skidmore, Minister for the Constitution. We sat down, exchanging greetings brief recollections from the events that took place in the House of Commons just a number of days before. We then began to discuss the issues at hand, starting with Votes at 16. Us MYPs expressed the want for us to take part in democracy and make politics more accessible. We raised the point about the confusion caused by the disparity of privileges received at 16 and 18, and we said that, because of how we are informed and how much we are aware, we are ready. We used the example of Scotland having the vote and Chris Skidmore, Minister for the Constitution, mentioned Wales’ government is considering lowering the age. However, he also mentioned how the Government is bound by their manifesto, which isn’t in support of Votes at 16. That’s not a reason to stop pushing, we concluded, as we are closer than ever before.
We also discussed the prospects of “a curriculum to prepare us for life” and how it would look in our schools. We communicated that the quality of our PSHE lessons aren’t up to where they need to be, and the Leader of the House agreed. Since I spoke about this issue at the dispatch box, I mentioned the lack of teacher’s training in PSHE, and that if there’s going to be quality PSHE teaching, there has to be quality courses so that they can teach us effectively. We also conversed about the idea of putting life skills at the forefront of our curriculum by having questions about life skills in the exams. For example, a health unit in Biology, a CV writing unit in English, a finance unit in Maths and so on; we felt implementing life skills this way is practical and effective, and research after the meeting shows this is already in place in some schools in the country.
Finally, our meeting moved to the topic of the potential of a kinder, better democracy, where 16 year olds can vote; where there’s not as much animosity in PMQ’s and the point is addressed, not the person; where the House of Commons is in the shape of a circle, not the (at times) confrontational current setup. The Leader of the House and The Minister of the Constitution listened attentively as the vision from the younger generation was spoken.
Overall, the meeting went very well! For me, it represented the views of young people rising up further on our government’s priority and it represents a shift in the attitude towards young people. From here, my hope is that we keep building, so the views of young people are heard and acted upon.