Press releases to journalists.
The British Youth Council would like to express thanks for the Speaker of the House of Commons’ long-standing support for the work of the British Youth Council and UK Youth Parliament throughout his tenure, following the announcement Rt Hon John Bercow MP intends to step down by Thursday 31st October 2019 or at the next election.
Commenting on the announcement, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair of the British Youth Council, the charity that coordinates UK Youth Parliament, said: “The British Youth Council would like to thank the Speaker of the House of Commons for being a persistent champion of the voices of young people in UK Parliament.
“John Bercow MP has been a long-term supporter of youth voice, and importantly UK Youth Parliament, throughout his time as Speaker of the House of Commons”
The Speaker of the House of Commons chaired every Commons Sitting of the UK Youth Parliament throughout his ten-year tenure within the role and spoke at each Annual Conference, most recently at their event in Nottingham.
A spokesperson for the UK Youth Parliament said “We are sad to learn of the Speaker’s intention to step down and we thank him for his commitment to youth voice in UK Parliament.
“We will be working with Parliamentary colleagues to establish how this will affect proceedings of UK Youth Parliament’s House of Commons Sitting”
Leading youth sector organisations, on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of young people they support and represent, are welcoming the Chancellor’s announcement of a new youth investment fund. This announcement is the first step in offering young people across the country safe spaces and high-quality youth opportunities in their communities.
Young people are facing urgent challenges. Research shows one in three believe they will have a worse standard of living than their parents, and one in five believe their lives will amount to nothing, no matter how hard they try. When asked what they believe contributes to violent crime, 45% claim there are not enough alternative activities for young people.
Figures released by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime (May 2019) showed that more than 100 councils have had up to 91% of their youth services budgets cut and that areas suffering the largest cuts have seen greater increases in knife crime.
For the last year the youth sector has been listening to young people and working together on ambitious proposals to make Britain the best place in the world to be young. Representatives from the sector will be presenting ideas to Ministers that will increase the number of volunteers and social action opportunities, invest in new and existing spaces in communities across the country, and give every young person access to high quality services delivered by a well-trained workforce. Together, the sector will ensure that the voices of young people are heard and that this investment reaches every community.
Youth sector chief executives, including Jo Hobbs from the British Youth Council, said: “There is a generation of young people that don’t believe this country is there for them. Today’s announcement is the start of recognising the value that youth services and youth workers add to our communities. By working together, we have been able to get the message heard loud and clear: long-term investment into youth services is vital for a brighter future for all young people and ultimately for the UK as a whole. We stand ready to work with the Government and help make this announcement a reality. Now is the time to turn words into action. We believe that young people are the future of this country and that’s why we need to take action now.”
The announcement follows a joint letter last month, sent from the British Youth Council, Girlguiding, the National Youth Agency, The Prince’s Trust, Step Up To Serve, UK Youth, Youth Futures Foundation, and the Youth United Foundation, calling on the Government to “make Britain the best place in the world to be young.
UK Youth Parliament has launched ‘Make Your Mark’, the largest UK youth consultation of its kind. Following the campaign, the top issues will be brought to the attention of Government Ministers including the newly appointed Minister for Civil Society, Baroness Barran MBE, who has taken on responsibility for youth policy.
The annual ballot, which has taken place since 2011, will give young people aged 11-18 the chance to select one UK-wide issue, one devolved issue and give them the opportunity to identify an issue in their local communities. The ballot includes issues such as knife crime, the environment, mental health in schools and hate crime.
This year’s nationwide campaign is funded by Fledglink and supported by the British Youth Council and UK Parliament. The campaign, which is expected to reach hundreds of thousands of young people, will see Members of Youth Parliament and volunteers across the country, invite young people in schools and youth groups to take this opportunity to have their say, to influence the Government and decision makers in their communities. In 2018, more than 1.1 million young people from every corner of the country took part.
Khadeejah Hullemuth, a member of the Procedures Group, which coordinates the UK Youth Parliament said: “Hundreds of thousands of young people across the country will get a chance to declare which issues are their biggest priority.
“Make Your Mark gives decision makers at every level of government the opportunity to understand young people’s priorities. Young people are passionate about the world they live in and their futures and politicians should not only listen to our concerns but act on them”
The top issues will be debated in the House of Commons chamber on Friday 8th November. The debate, which has taken place every year since 2009, will be chaired by Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, who spoke at the UK Youth Parliament’s Annual Conference in Leeds earlier this month. After the debates, Members of Youth Parliament will walk through the division lobbies to vote on what should become their priority campaigns for 2019. In previous years, mental health, tackling racism and religious discrimination and knife crime have been prioritised.
Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, said: “Every year the Make Your Mark ballot provides a fantastic opportunity for millions of young people across the UK to engage with Parliament and the democratic process.
“Last year, over a million young people made their voices heard, as they voted for vital motions to be debated by Members of the UK Youth Parliament. This year looks like it will be no different. I look forward to welcoming the inspiring Youth Members again as they capture the imagination by debating the crucial issues affecting the future of our United Kingdom.”
Find out more information about the consultation by visiting: www.ukyouthparliament.org.uk/makeyourmark
The British Youth Council have stated the UK Government should ensure young people are at the table with decision-makers influencing the Government’s response to serious youth violence. The statement has been issued following the Home Affairs Select Committee’s inquiry which has concluded the Government’s current approach is ‘completely inadequate’.
The youth-led charity also called on Prime Minister, Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, to reiterate his predecessor’s commitment to engage young people in the solutions to serious youth violence. Over 1.1 million young people declared knife crime their biggest concern in a UK-wide ballot of young people aged 11 to 18 last year.
Commenting on the report, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council said: “Young people should be involved in any decision making that will affect their lives, but given the severity of this issue and the fact young people think its one of the biggest issues facing young people at the moment its important young people have an opportunity to influence Government on this issue.”
The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee is also conducting an inquiry into the reported knife crime epidemic. The committee of eleven young people has been presented with evidence by young people, professionals, a Government minister and academics. The inquiry is due to conclude in November when the committee will make a set of recommendations to the Government.
The British Youth Council are delighted to welcome new minister for Civil Society, Baroness Barran MBE, who will take on responsibility for youth policy at the Office for Civil Society following the departure of Mims Davies MP who has been in charge of the office since November 2018.
Commenting on the appointment of the new minister, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council said: “The British Youth Council are looking forward to working with the new minister to ensure the Government remains committed to young people’s voices being heard on the issues they’re passionate about.
“It remains absolutely vital, during this time, that young people play a role in the Government decision making”
The youth-led charity is writing to welcome the Minister to the new role, however, it will also reiterate its concerns for the size of the brief which will include other responsibilities. It is the organisation’s longstanding belief, that the Government should appoint a Minister solely responsible for young people. Successive Governments have ignored cross-party support for the reintroduction of the role which has been vacant since 2010.
Lewis Addlington-Lee, Deputy Chair of the British Youth Council said: “Despite our best efforts to persuade successive Governments, we still don’t have a dedicated Youth Minister.
“Although this appears to be a smaller brief, we’ll be requesting further reassurances that the size of the brief, won’t result in young people’s priorities being ignored.”
We will also use this as an opportunity to highlight the most important issues facing young people living in the UK. In the lead up to the General Election, the British Youth Council highlighted the underfunding of youth services and the importance of ensuring young people have a meaningful opportunity to influence Brexit negotiations.
The British Youth Council have worked under various Government departments since 2011 to deliver it’s Youth Voice programme. The Youth Voice programme, which is currently supported by Department for Culture, Media and Sport, includes UK Youth Parliament and Youth Select Committee. The programme aims to give young people the opportunity to influence public decision-making at a local and national level.
Ministers and Members of Parliament, alongside leading figures from the world of policing, crime and policy are among those giving evidence to the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee on 5th and 12th July as part of an inquiry into knife crime.
The inquiry comes as a result of a UK-wide ballot of 1.1 million young people aged 11 to 18, in which young people declared knife crime their biggest concern.
More than 100,000 people signed a Parliament and Government petition demanding a debate on knife crime- resulting in Parliament debating the issue in March. Research from the House of Commons Library showed that knife crime, particularly where it affects young people, has been a ‘persistent and growing concern’ for successive governments.
Parliament’s Youth Select Committee gives young people the opportunity to scrutinise and hold inquiries into topics that matter to them. Following a call for written evidence, the 2019 Youth Select Committee will be hearing from a range of witnesses on 5 and 12 July inside the Grimmond Room of the House of Commons, usually used by MPs.
Rachel Ojo, Chair of the Youth Select Committee from Essex, said:“Young people have made it very clear that knife crime continues to be a significant concern.
“The Youth Select Committee want to hear from a whole range of people on this issue so we can find solutions that will have a demonstrable impact of the lives of young people.”
Rt. Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons said:“Every year the Youth Select Committee play a vital role in raising awareness about the issues affecting young people across the country.
“This year the Committee’s determination to tackle the epidemic of knife crime is something that I wholly support. I will be following this pioneering Committee as they investigate the scourge of knife crime and I eagerly anticipate their report.”
Now in its eighth year, the Youth Select Committee is a British Youth Council initiative, supported by the House of Commons. The eleven members of the Youth Select Committee are aged 11-18 and include Members of the UK Youth Parliament, Youth Councillors, a Young Mayor and representatives from each of the devolved nations.
The children’s charity, NSPCC, has released data showing that children and young people are facing a rising tide of racial hate crimes. Reported incidences of racially motivated abuse and bullying have increased by one fifth since 2015-16.
“I’m heartbroken to hear of the racism young BME students are facing in schools across the country and, regrettably, not shocked because their stories are very similar to my own”, says Larissa Kennedy, Trustee of the British Youth Council. In 2015 young people across the UK voted for racism and religious discrimination as one of the top five issues facing young people in the annual Make Your Mark ballot. This prompted the Youth Select Committee to undertake an inquiry into the issue in 2016.
“The Youth Select Committee received evidence from a range of young people sharing their experience of racial and religious discrimination, both in their communities and in schools,” says Kennedy. The Committee made a range of recommendations regarding actions that could be taken to better support schools and teachers to educate around this issue and to tackle racism when it does happen.
In the joint ministerial foreword to the government response, representatives of the Home Office, Department for Education and Department for Communities and Local Government stated “We are clear that no child should live in fear of racism or bullying. To this end, we have sent a clear message to schools that they need to challenge and tackle all forms of bullying and discrimination, including racism and religious discrimination.” In this response the government made no new commitments to tackle the issues raised by young people.
Whilst the sentiments of the Ministers were right, the British Youth Council believe it is time for action. Between attainment gaps, erasure from the national curriculum, disproportionate expulsions, discriminatory dress codes and these reports of racist incidents in schools, education is a right that young BME students are not currently being fully afforded. We must not only prevent and tackle racist incidents but institutional racism in the education system. The British Youth Council renews it’s call on the government to listen to young people and to work with us to actively eradicate racism in schools.