Recently, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport and the British Youth Council launched Involved. Involved is a social media tool on Instagram that allows young people to become a part of the decision-making process. I have been lucky enough to witness the Involved’s journey from an idea to a fully functional tool for young people across the country. Over this time, I have been able to become more confident in Involved’s necessity. For as long as our democratic system has existed, the prevailing view has always been that young people should be seen and not heard.
However, our society relies on young people to be responsible for their education, their careers, and their personal development, without the right to financial support or a direct way of providing feedback on the government decisions that impact them. The past ten years have seen a comprehensive transformation in this regard. There is the UK Youth Parliament where all devolved administrations have a Youth Voice representative body. The recent allocation of funding shows that structured youth investment succeeds in the long term. What we continue to see now is the dialogue surrounding young people increasing. And why shouldn’t it?
During my apprenticeship, I paid tax like any other employee. I believed that failing my GCSEs would prevent any hope of further education. And so, I was responsible for my entire future at the age of 16. And now we see young people taking responsibility for more than just their futures. Young people are moving. They are marching and using their few rights and platforms to spread a message.
From climate change to racial injustice, young people, who I am proud to say I share a generation with, care about much more than just their future. They care about the future of humanity. Yes, we have more to learn, and of course, we will make mistakes along the way. Look at the actions of previous generations and you will see; we are just another stepping-stone in the development of humanity.
Now for Involved, another stepping-stone allowing young people to have a direct link to the decision makers. If there is a disconnection between young people and decision makers, then the process of decision making is broken. For the same reason a marketing consultant is consulted on marketing, young people should be consulted on policies aimed at them. I am grateful we now have this belief established in some government departments. And those departments want to know more to do more, and that is why the young people we see marching, protesting and demanding the government to listen, can now be listened to.
It is just the beginning of Involved as a platform for young people to be heard, and there are certainly more steps to be taken for the Government to listen to young people. However, if we take this as the olive branch it is, we can keep moving. We can build a more open society that is not afraid to have the frank discussions it needs to progress. I will not forget the journey that was developing Involved, but I know that the best is yet to come.
The government have been urged by the British Youth Council’s Youth Steering Group to collaborate with young people to tackle the climate change emergency. The group have stated a youth engagement strategy, designed in collaboration with a diverse range of young people and organisations, should be established if the government want to tackle climate change effectively.
The report, which was submitted to officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, will be used to aid decision-making on the government’s plan to end the UK’s contribution to climate change by 2050. Last year, climate change was declared the biggest issue facing young people in a nationwide ballot of more than 825,000 young people.
Liv Eren, a member of the Youth Steering Group said: “If the government wants to tackle the climate change emergency, it must work with young people to address it. Our group have worked to come up with a comprehensive report that should help the government to take the right steps to not only involve young people but also inspire others to take action on this important issue.”
The group recommends that young people are empowered to participate in environmental action without feeling as though it is their responsibility entirely. It also suggests that the government explore the feasibility of developing a network of climate champions who can become strong environmental advocates within their own communities. The recommendations came about following several sessions with senior officials and Ministers from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy last year.
The Youth Steering Group were established with new funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as part of a wider effort by the British Youth Council to take young people’s voices to the heart of government. The group of young people aged between 15 and 24 was set up last year to help shape national policy. The youth-led charity has been working with The Mix, Youth Focus North West, Youth Focus: North East and Youth Work Unit in Yorkshire and Humber to deliver the project.
Young people from across the country will be invited to share their views on key issues with the government using a new digital platform launched today (2 July).
The ‘Involved’ Instagram page will be a major step in engaging young people aged 13-25 around decisions made at the heart of government, by asking questions through the app’s polling and stories functions.
Responses will then feed directly into live public consultations and wider policy making across government departments.
The tool, supported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and managed by the British Youth Council, has been designed by a group of 30 young people aged between 15 and 24 set up last year to offer a youth perspective on decisions made in government.
The Youth Steering Group has already provided valuable advice to Ministers on issues including youth violence, volunteering, youth services and the coronavirus outbreak.
In the coming weeks young people will be invited to respond to a range of questions on the ‘Involved’ page regarding the impact coronavirus has had on their lives.
For example, young people will be asked how they feel about social distancing measures, what support they would like in accessing information about coronavirus and what extra help they feel they need during this time.
Harley Taylor, of the Youth Steering Group, said: “Young people are passionate about seeing social change in their communities and must be able to participate in the decision making of government. Involved will serve as an important opportunity to gauge young people’s views on the hot topics within government.”
Baroness Barran, Minister for Civil Society said: “Young people often feel like it is hard to get their voices heard. Involved will give them an easy way to contribute their views on issues that matter to them, helping our decisions as Ministers to reflect these better.
“This commitment to involve young people’s views in policymaking is part of our ambitious, long-term plan to support them to thrive as we rebuild and recover from the coronavirus outbreak.”
The tool follows the Chancellor’s announcement last year of a £500 million Youth Investment Fund for the five years from April 2020, to give young people somewhere to go, something positive to do and someone to speak to.
The Youth Steering Group is currently recruiting for new members. Young people aged 16-25 are encouraged to apply in writing, by video message or voice note. Get in touch for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications close on 12th July 2020.
Hear from the British Youth Voice Star awardee and volunteering champion, Jess Griffiths, on her life-changing journey through Youth Voice, her award and where the role has led her to now….
Hi, my name is Jess Griffiths and I won the British Youth Voice Star Award for personal development.
Youth Voice has played a massive role in my life over the last four-years in many ways.
My roles over the years have changed quite a lot. I have been a Young Leader, Young Facilitator and I have recently been employed as an Early Help Support worker. I’m now also a volunteer youth worker at Kent Youth County Council, which means I support young people in getting their voices heard.
However, this time four-years ago I would never imagine me being in this great position that I find myself in now.
I started my youth voice journey at the age of 15. At this time, I was very shy and didn’t engage with a lot. I was struggling at school and, with my GCSEs coming up, I knew I needed to find something positive to put my energy into.
My social-skills teacher showed me a poster about the Kent Youth County Council. I wasn’t too sure about it, but gave the elections ago. At my surprise, I was lucky enough to be elected as a member for the Shepway District.
At my first meeting I was very overwhelmed and just wanted the ground to sallow me up! However, I met some other young people there and they seemed nice, so I thought I would give it a go. I also met members of the staff who were amazing! They really helped me to access the youth council by providing me with the time and the support to get me through a traumatic time in my life.
I was a victim of abuse, but they didn’t let me go through it alone, and I always knew there was someone for me to talk to. By September the following year I felt like I had truly found a place where I belonged and had made friends that would last me a lifetime.
Whilst I was at Kent Youth County Council meeting I heard a participation worker speak about ‘HeadStart’ Kent. At the time I didn’t have very good attendance, or a very good relationship with my teachers, and was always told “I was never going to achieve anything in my life.”
I’m a young carer, and so school at the time was a hassle for me. There was just lots going on- and I didn’t have time for it. I had other priorities and was struggling to manage everything at once.
HeadStart came along just at the right time for me. Staff encouraged me to get involved in the central ‘SpeakOut’ group, which was a partnership for young people across Kent to have their say in the delivery of the HeadStart programme.
SpeakOut has been really pivotal for me. It has made me feel part of something. It’s like a dysfunctional family where we all play our own parts! I’m “Aunty Jess” and a lot of the other members had come to me to talk about their problems.
I have been able to use my own experiences and struggles with mental health to help others. I have also learned more about myself, and how to manage situations. I now know that I’m in control and have developed my own resilience for difficult times. I was proving everyone wrong despite my mental health problems and my additional needs. I had this amazing feeling that I was going places.
In 2017 I became a Young Leader of Youth Voice, which gave me the opportunity to mentor and support other young people.
Over last summer, I was involved in designing coproduction training for Youth Voice and was able to deliver this to a group of senior managers and directors within Kent County Council. Now we are rolling it out to staff.
Our aim was that young people would make a difference in promoting youth voice and engagement. New opportunities for young people have come out of this, and it’s great to see that more is now happening in Kent County Council to ensure the voice of young people is taken into account in decision-making, not just with HeadStart.
Even during the training workshop, at the break, we heard managers on the phone to staff asking if young people had been involved- and if not, “they needed to be!” I felt like I had really made a difference to services in my county, and that young people in general were finally given a way to use their voices for real change!
A massive highlight for me must be speaking in Parliament about my co-production training work, as well as my own HeadStart journey. I was able to affirm why it’s so important that young people have access to projects such as HeadStart and Kent Youth County Council. It was great to get across to important decision makers how passionate I am about the service and the work it does for young people, like me.
I was lucky enough to be on the ‘Big Conversation’ panel in March too. It was an amazing way to end my Youth Voice journey and getting the chance to answer the questions that young people had regarding their mental health, personal development, and other important topics to them.
Another highlight that MUST NOT be forgotten is my National Award for ‘Personal Development’! I never thought I was going to get shortlisted, let alone win. I can’t thank everyone enough for all their kind words, especially Claire (my Participation Worker) and the young person that filmed the video. Moments like that are so sweet, and I cry every time I watch the video back, as I had never heard how much I actually mean to people.
I just want to say a MASSIVE thank you to the whole Participation Team in Kent- without you guys I would of gave up a long time ago. You all gave the time, resources and the safe space to allow me to get to the place I am now. Also, a massive thank you to all the amazing young people I have worked with that are so dedicated and inspirational. You all deserve gold for the work you do! I can’t wait to meet many more in my new job role.
As I said towards the start of this post, I am in a completely different place in my life. I’m in control of my mental health and I feel positive in caring for myself and others. I have a good support network around me now, with solid people that are there for me. I have thoroughly enjoyed helping to develop Headstart and youth engagement in Kent Youth County Council and in turn, they played a massive role in creating an environment that has helped me develop and get to where I am today.
If I would have one piece of advice for anyone it would be never be ashamed of what you’re going through or been through, that’s your story that you can create strengthen from! It will be used to inspire others , but don’t let it stop you being who you want to be because YOU can do it!