The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee will launch its report on ‘racism and religious discrimination’ on Wednesday 16th November 2016. The report, launched as part of UK Parliament Week, concludes that people’s attitudes towards racism and religious discrimination have become normalised and there is ambiguity surrounding what constitutes such behaviour. It stresses that the Government needs to do more to define racism and religious discrimination as well as to raise awareness of what these definitions actually mean in practice. The committee also recommends making PSHE a compulsory subject in schools, with teachers receiving better training on tackling racism and religious discrimination; a recommendation the Government has not ruled out.
Bronagh Hughes, 18, Chair of the Youth Select Committee said: “Throughout our extensive inquiry into racism and religious discrimination, it became apparent to the Committee that racism and religious discrimination remains prevalent in the lives of many young people living in the UK. The UK’s decision to leave the EU brought this issue to the forefront of political discussion following the post-Brexit surge in hate crime that surfaced. Moving forward, we must ensure that this is high on the agenda for decision makers so that we can make positive steps to combat both racism and religious discrimination. The Committee is really keen to hear the Government’s response to our recommendations.”
Now in its fifth year, the Youth Select Committee, supported by the House of Commons, takes evidence in public and has its proceedings streamed online and recorded in Hansard. The eleven committee members are aged 15-19 and include Members of UK Youth Parliament, Youth Councillors, a Young Mayor, reserved seats and representatives from each of the devolved nations. Previous inquiries have reported on transport, education, votes at 16, and mental health.
This year’s inquiry considered:
- the level and quality of awareness and education in schools
- the prevalence of racism and religious discrimination and how organisations and young people are attempting to tackle it
- how the issues can be tackled at a local level by communities;
- how tackling racism and religious discrimination should be approached at a national level by the Government.
Evidence was gathered from a range of witnesses, including charities, young people, academics, and professionals.
‘Tackling racism and religious discrimination’ was chosen as one of the top priorities in a ballot of 969,992 young people conducted in 2015, and subsequently became the topic of focus for this year’s Youth Select Committee. The issue was highlighted as a priority once again in a 2016 poll of 978,216 young people, making it clear that the issue is of growing importance to young people living in the UK. The committee realises that despite the UK having strong equal rights laws and a Government Equalities Office responsible for taking action to remove barriers to equality and help build a fairer society, racism and religious discrimination continue to remain prevalent in everyday life for many people living in the UK. The UK’s decision to leave the European Union, and the repercussions of that vote in subsequent weeks brought this issue to the forefront of public attention.