The Government have released their new civil society strategy, revealing plans to tackle big societal issues. The British Youth Council welcome the Government’s new commitment to review the guidance which sets out the statutory duty placed on local authorities to provide appropriate youth services.
The Government shift comes following years of campaigning by the British Youth Council and campaigns like Choose Youth which have been working to convince the Government of the important role youth services play. In the past, the Government have resisted calls for statutory youth services despite clear evidence of the positive impact they’ve had on young people living in the UK.
The British Youth Council believes properly funded youth services aid young people in their personal development and their ability to function in a fast-changing society. We call on the Government and local councils to protect the budgets of such invaluable services and to ensure adequate financial and organisational provision is given to local council-run youth organisations. This will allow for a fairer, safer and stronger environment for young people.
Since 2010, youth services have suffered as a result of financial cuts and restrictions despite the thousands of young people who rely on these vital services. Youth services deliver a wide range of social and personal educational services to young people from sex and relationship advice to learning how to interact with peers. We know that youth services provide a supportive place for young people to become a force for good in society and we believe that the Government must recognise the difference these services make.
The British Youth Council also welcome the Government’s commitment to empowering young people to ‘shape the future of the country’. We believe it’s absolutely vital young people able to influence and inform the decisions that affect their lives. In the strategy, the Government states young people should be ‘systematically involved in shaping the policies that affect them’.
Anna Rose Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “The British Youth Council are excited to hear the Government are open to changing their view on statutory youth services. We’ve been clear for many years, the role of youth services is far too important to be left to chance. Young people should have access to high-quality youth services, regardless of where they live.
“We’re really pleased the Government have recognised the importance of providing young people with a meaningful opportunity to influence the design and implementation of programmes which affect them. We hope the Government continue to involve young people in its decision making because young people are passionate about the issues that affect them and their communities”
Last month, Youth Employment UK launched their Youth Voice Census with support from The Careers and Enterprise Company and Pearson Education. The leading-edge census will act as an innovative platform for young people aged 16-24 to voice their opinion on a variety of issues from work experience to going to university and everything in-between, allowing them to say how they’re really feeling.
Young people will be able to complete the census confidently knowing that their views will better inform a variety of organisations about the situation and circumstances they and other young people are facing. Youth Employment UK will share the results to better inform policy, provision and resources.
I’m a proud ambassador for Youth Employment UK and I’ve been privileged enough to have been working with the organisation since January 2016. During the last two years, I’ve seen the organisation go from strength to strength, I feel honoured to have been part of a number of projects aiming to help other young people move into employment or start their own businesses. Youth Employment UK are working hard to tackle levels of unemployment across 16 to 24-year olds in the UK and they’re doing so much great work – it’s amazing. The new Youth Voice Census is certainly a further step in the right direction as tackling youth unemployment remains one of the biggest challenges facing the UK’s labour market. Whilst I was going through school and sixth-form, I never had the opportunity to voice my opinion on issues like careers advice, apprenticeships and vocational courses. My school was one of the fortunate few in the Sheffield area to have a dedicated careers adviser, however, I still couldn’t help but feel somewhat forced into remaining in education rather than taking up a vocational option whether that was after my GCSE’s or sixth-form.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m currently studying Business and Enterprise Management at Sheffield Hallam University and I’m loving every minute of it – it’s certainly the perfect course for me, but it was a long road to get to university. In hindsight, A-levels weren’t for me, I put myself through 2-years of A-levels and had to fight so hard to get those top grades whilst I could have chosen to do a vocational BTEC business course and I feel I would have not only scored higher grades this way, I would have enjoyed it so much more too. The new Youth Voice Census launched by Youth Employment UK allows young people like me who have had negative experiences surrounding various elements of education and employment to share their opinion and protect young people making these choices in the future!
By being able to voice their opinion and make it count, I feel young people are likely to have a much more positive mindset when it comes to making similar decisions in their future careers. Your mindset can influence everything you do and if young people feel their opinion is valued, they will feel supported when moving into the next stage of their careers.
Whilst I’ve been working with Youth Employment UK over the last two years, the biggest issue I feel we need to tackle is managing employers’ expectations. They regularly expect young people to be ‘work ready’ and too many companies aren’t prepared to take a risk on a young person who has little experience. Employers need to start putting their hands in their pockets and training young people as they start their careers. I’ve interviewed a variety of young people across the UK who often feel disheartened when they’ve applied for countless jobs, and in some cases, not even received an email from the employer telling them they’ve been unsuccessful – that’s wrong. Important life skills aren’t properly developed in schools, young people are expected to gain these skills from experiences outside of school and that’s why so many aren’t considered ‘ready’ for employment as they just haven’t had the opportunity to excel themselves.
It’s important that careers advice and work experience must become an essential part of the curriculum. My advice to any young person reading this is to complete the Youth Employment UK Youth Voice Census and together change future young lives for the better. If you’re an employer or charity organisation, please help us to spread the word – it’s important that this census makes a difference.
UK Youth Parliament will soon launch their new manifesto following an intense debate at their Annual Conference in Nottingham. Over the weekend over 200 Members of Youth Parliament from across the UK came to together to debate new policies and campaigns for the year ahead.
Members of Youth Parliament debated and voted on the issues during the UK Youth Parliament’s Annual Conference which took place at the University of Nottingham. During the debates Members of Youth Parliament discussed putting an end to knife crime, tackling homelessness, welcoming refugees, supporting youth services, mental health in school, tackling hate crime and the importance of ensuring sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.
During the three day conference, Members of Youth Parliament marked the Vote 100 campaign celebrating 100 years since some women were given the right to vote in elections. Representatives were addressed by Joy Warmington, CEO of brap, an expert in leadership development and coaching. Alison Kriel, CEO of the AMAYA Trust addressed in the closing ceremony sharing her personal experiences of having to persevere growing up and in the workplace.
John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, returned to the Annual Conference to address Members of Youth Parliament ahead of the UK Youth Parliament’s Sitting in the House of Commons which will take place in November following this year’s Make Your Mark campaign.
Brahmpreet Gulati, Procedures Groups representative for the East Midlands, the group which coordinate the event said: “This year UK Youth Parliament marked 100 years since some women were given the vote. An important milestone in the political calendar, and one we marked throughout this year’s conference. Equality has not yet fully been achieved but we as the next generation must continue on this journey.
During the conference Members of Youth Parliament debated how we could better support the LGBT+ community, sexism, hate crime and a whole host of issues facing young people in the UK. In our new manifesto, we’re calling on decision-makers to address the issues that young people are passionate about.”
Find out more about UK Youth Parliament
British Youth Council Trustee, Larissa Kennedy, comments on the Voter ID pilots undertaken at the Local Elections in 2018.
Throughout history, the power of the vote and, equal access to voting, is something that so many have fought for – with young people being some of those who continue that battle to this day. It seems oxymoronic that, in the year that we are celebrating the centenary of the extension of the franchise to some women, and 90 years since the vote was extended to all women and men over 21, that we are simultaneously putting barriers in the way of people accessing their vote.
The government’s Democratic Engagement Plan should be doing what it says on the tin – engaging people in democracy. And it’s sub heading – ‘Building A Democracy That Works For Everyone’ – is absolutely a principle that we can get behind. But we’re concerned that current actions could actually do the opposite. In May this year there were pilots that require people to produce ID at the polling stations before they could vote in the local elections. In Swindon and Watford, you had to take your poll card to the polling station; in Bromley and Gosport, you needed one piece of photo identification, like a passport or driving licence, or two pieces of non photo ID, such as a recent bank or credit card statement and utility bill of which one must contain your address; and in Woking, you needed photo identification, like a passport, driving licence or senior bus pass.
This is a move to prevent electoral fraud but this doesn’t seem up to add up. An evaluation of this pilot by the Electoral Commission has shown that whilst only three allegations of this type of voter fraud have been made in non-pilot areas, at the same election around 350 people turned up to vote, were turned away for not having the correct ID and did not come back. In Watford there was a correlation between the proportion of a ward’s population that is Asian/British Asian and the number of people who turned up without identification and did not return. And under 35s and people in the lowest social classes (C2DE) were amongst the least likely to have received the messages about the requirement to have ID to be able to vote.
Why the British Youth Council is speaking out on this?
Numerous studies from the US prove that strict rules about voter ID make it harder for marginalised groups to engage with politics – this could further disenfranchise not only young people, but also the elderly, disabled people, trans and gender non-conforming people, people of colour, and the homeless.
The British Youth Council has always supported young voters. In the past, we’ve run voter registration campaigns because we’re passionate about ensuring that young voters can access their vote. Now, we’re standing in solidarity with the Electoral Reform Society, researchers, and numerous organisations representing marginalised voting communities, including Race On The Agenda, The LGBT Foundation, Liberty and Age UK just to name a few, calling on the government to reconsider this approach.
In all elections and referenda, all eligible people should be able to exercise their democratic right. It is crucial for that we stand up for this right, and the British Youth Council – as always – will continue to fight for young’s voices people to be heard.
Member of Youth Parliament for Leeds, Sylvia Cullen, reflects on the Government’s announcement on guidance for schools
This new guidance is exactly the sort of forward thinking and developed framework that I believe young people need. As technology develops and becomes more advanced our lives become more complicated and new difficulties arise. By making it compulsory for schools to teach their pupils how to say safe online they are equipping them for life in our modern era and helping vital life skills to develop.
Also, mental and physical health come hand in hand, with poor physical health often leading to a decline mental health, and vice versa, and thus it is vital that we as young people are all taught how to look after ourselves in both respects. The new exam system is placing more pressure than ever on our young people and this newly published guidance indicates that steps are being made to help us look after ourselves amongst the pressure that we face.
Throughout our education we have the importance of friendship reinforced frequently but, until now, have never been offered much guidance in the way of maintaining and strengthening these relationships. This new guidance indicates that this will no longer be the case and that young people will now be taught how to keep relationships healthy and fruitful, which I hold to be highly important if we are to teach our young people self respect and to respect others.
The Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP, Secretary of State for Education, has just announced that, in a move affecting all schools across the country from September 2020, the government will introduce mandatory relationships and health education in schools. This will add to current schooling guidance on online safety, mental and physical health, financial literacy, and relationships, in what represents “a major step in addressing concerns about consistency of quality and reduced curriculum time for PSHE”.
This follows work from a vast array of sources: the PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic) Association, tens of thousands of young people across the UK, and from the British Youth Council’s own Youth Select Committee and UK Youth Parliament.
It’s not as if the signs haven’t been there. Young people have been campaigning to leave school with a “good level of understanding of mental health… (with) the ability to understand and develop their own mental wellbeing” (Youth Select Committee 2015 ), and almost 120,000 young people voted mental health services as their top priority in the 2017 Make Your Mark ballot. Young people want education that is fit for purpose, education that serves to better the understanding of key topics facing them today. Young people are living in a world where mental health and wellbeing is ever more crucial to understand, with 75% of young people with a mental health problem not receiving treatment, depression being the biggest cause of ill health among teenagers around the world , and the most common reason for Childline Counselling sessions in 2016/17 being mental and emotional health.
The painting is a grim one.
In my capacity as a trustee of the British Youth Council, and in my work in the youth sector over the last eight years, I have worked with thousands of young people. I will never forget the mum of a girl I worked with at a youth club, in one of my first positions engaging with young people, who I sat down with and explained that depression didn’t mean there was anything wrong with her daughter, and that it didn’t make her ‘different’. We eventually decided to roll the mental health talk out to the group, as it was clearly not something they had heard before.
To see her daughter, who was a gem, coming out of her shell and getting excited and confident on a club trip to the seaside later that year, unshackled by negative perceptions of her own mental health, and with friends who understood her was and is one of my most rewarding experiences working with young people to date.
What I’m trying to say is, it’s great that the government is rolling this out. It’s needed, though. It’s badly needed.
When YouGov find that more than half of young people “feel embarrassed about mental illness”, when last year’s Youth Select Committee conclude that “body dissatisfaction causes long-lasting consequences for young people”, it feels like the government have only made a small step in the right direction.
Updating guidance that was last updated in 2000 is a positive start.
Ensuring children grow up to “become happy and well-rounded individuals who know how to deal with the challenges of the modern world” is crucial.
I warmly welcome the government listening to young people, but cannot stress enough the urgency of this problem, and a warning against piecemeal action. Creating PSHE that works for young people, makes them healthy, happy citizens, is of vital importance over the years to come.
We’re on the right path, but we’re not there yet.
The Government have published plans to introduce mandatory relationships and health education in schools, according to a statement released by the Department for Education. The British Youth Council welcome the new additional commitment to mandatory health education which will accompany existing commitments to introduce mandatory relationships and sex education.
The British Youth Council have been working to convince the Government to introduce statutory and compulsory high-quality citizenship and sex and relationship education to the curriculum for a number of years. In 2013, the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee report ‘A Curriculum for Life’ concluded life skills education in schools fell well short of its full potential and youth representatives have been working to convince the Government to make concrete commitments since.
The British Youth Council believes that students should leave our education systems equipped with the skills, knowledge and experience to become active, well-informed and confident members of their local, national and global communities. This means making sure that education covers politics and democratic life, as well as social issues such as sex and relationship education.
It’s evident that young people feel that the current citizenship education and SRE curriculum provisions are inadequate and that they are being denied a better understanding of themselves, relationships, society and politics. Young people have repeatedly called for a curriculum for life, most recently in UK Youth Parliament’s 2017 Make Your Mark ballot of 954,766 young people, when the issue was voted a top priority.
The current scope of the citizenship curriculum is too narrow and should encompass wider political and constitutional rights, as well as social issues including global citizenship and sustainability, legal rights and financial literacy, human rights, liberation, diversity and information regarding mental health.
The latest development is the first time the Government have made a commitment to ensure pupils are taught about the benefits of a healthier lifestyle, what determines their physical health and how to build mental resilience and wellbeing. Mental health, wellbeing and body image have all remained important issues for young people, with last year’s Youth Select Committee concluding body dissatisfaction causing long-lasting consequences for young people and the 2016 Youth Select Committee concluding that more needed to be done to help young people learn more about mental wellbeing.
Anna Rose Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council said:“The British Youth Council are delighted to learn that the Government will be introducing mandatory health education on top of it’s existing commitment to introduce mandatory relationships and sex education.
“Mental health and wellbeing continue to be a priority for young people in the UK, and it’s great to the Government taking steps to address the issue within the curriculum. However, the changes come following years of campaigning from young people who have made it clear school need to prepare young people for life post-education”
On Sunday, 15th July, four runners took part in the Virgin Sport British 10K to raise money for the British Youth Council. Braving the 30 ̊C heat and getting into the party spirit, our runners took to the challenge with high energy and enthusiasm and our cheer team made up of staff, trustees and friends were there to offer encouragement at the half-way point.
Collectively raising over £1,000 the challenge event champions smashed their targets and have made a huge contribution to the British Youth Council and young people across the UK. To the runners, donors and volunteers, THANK YOU!
Jo Hobbs, Cheif Executive of the British Youth Council commented “It is fantastic to see so much support for a charity like the British Youth Council. It goes to show that small niche charities can still engage in challenge event fundraising and that people are happy to support our vital work.”
If you would like to take part in a challenge event or would like to organise your own fundraising event, please get in touch with our Head of Fundraising, Victoria Ward on Victoria.firstname.lastname@example.org
Government officials alongside leading figures from the world of business, education and policy are among those giving evidence to the Youth Select Committee on 6 and 13 July as part of an inquiry into barriers to work experience.
The inquiry comes at a time when more than half a million young people are unemployed, and with a recent YouGov poll highlighting that 58 per cent of all 11-18 year olds cite a lack of work experience as a barrier to future employment.
Parliament’s annual Youth Select Committee gives young people the opportunity to scrutinise and hold inquiries into topics of importance to them. Following a call for written evidence, the 2018 Youth Select Committee will be hearing from a range of witnesses on 6 and 13 July inside one of the House of Commons Committee Rooms, usually used by MPs.
The eleven committee members 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.
Claudia Quinn, 17, Chair of the Youth Select Committee said: “The Youth Select Committee will investigate the barriers young people face when accessing work experience. Work experience has become a growing concern for young people seeking to enter the workplace. We are looking forward to ensuring we hear a variety of voices on this issue so we can make strong recommendations to the Government.”
Rt. Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons said: “The Youth Select Committee have an extraordinary ability to tackle the biggest issues affecting young people head on. Finding good quality work experience is a real challenge for a lot of youngsters across the country, so it is promising to see the issue being investigated by this year’s committee. I look forward to personally meeting the young members and following their enquiry.”
The first evidence session, which will take place during National Democracy Week on Friday 6th July 2018, will be open to the public and broadcast live on Parliament TV. Members of the public are also invited to join the second session on Friday 13th July 2018.
Just like UK Parliament Select Committees, the Youth Select Committee will produce a report and recommendations based on its findings, which will be sent to the Government for a response.
The evidence sessions will be open to the public on a first come, first served basis. Entry is via Portcullis House and it is advisable to allow 30 minutes to pass through security checks.
Over the past couple of years, I have been thinking about impact and wanted to take this moment in Small Charity Week to reflect on what I have learnt and what it means for the British Youth Council.
Three things I have learnt:
- ‘Measuring’ impact is hard. It’s not always recognised in conversations and work around impact but it’s essential to do so. For an organisation there is no simple answer, no magic tool or resource which if you could just find the time to implement will ensure you are consistently delivering and able to evidence the positive impact you are having on individuals and communities. You have to be open to asking challenging questions, be honest in your responses, and be prepared for a process of continuous review and learning. You have to be prepared to accept you might not be having a positive impact, or not in the ways you intend, and then review what this means. This is before you even look at what we are trying to measure, the fact impact may not be seen until years down the line, young people have a multitude of influences and experiences which impact their lives. None of this is easy.
- We should aim to improve not prove. One way to move forward and feel less overwhelmed about the task ahead is to shift thinking from attempting to prove what we do works, to ensuring the quality of our programmes and making improvements where we can. This immediately brings in some breathing space, reduces pressure and challenges the culture that sees monitoring and evaluation as a burden we endure to prove ourselves to others, allowing us to focus attention and energy on what really matters. Bethia McNeil has blogged more about this here.
- Funders aren’t the bad guys. Because of a culture of attempting to prove ourselves to funders, rather than seeking to improve the quality of our work, we have often fallen into an unhealthy cycle that sees us collecting endless data, turning it in every quarter, never looking at it again, never sure that it’s been read, blaming the funder for the whole process. I don’t think this is uncommon and there are definitely examples of poor practice on both sides – we’re still untangling the effects of one funder’s decision a few years ago to add some last minute KPIs to our contract, based on the KPIs for another (very different, much larger) programme they also fund. I have come to the conclusion that the key here is being able to demonstrate a clear plan and how you will test it, allowing you to be open and confident about what you can offer as evidence (and what you can’t). Funders have experience and expertise to share, have the same priority of creating the best opportunities for young people, and appreciate open and honest conversations. Having these conversations is the only way we can change the narrative.
Three things I am looking forward to:
One of the goals of the British Youth Council’s new three-year strategy is that ‘we will understand and showcase meaningful change’. We will be articulating a clear plan of what we aim to achieve across our programmes and testing it. We are fortunate that our CEO and Trustee leading on this area of the strategy are supportive of the approaches above, encouraging a focus on improving quality, ensuring we can continue to achieve the best results for young people. In particular, in the coming months I will be focusing on:
- Creating a theory of change for the NHS Youth Forum We have the first residential of the 2018-19 Youth Forum at the end of the month and have recently recruited two new staff members to work on this project. I have used the opportunity of new energy and ideas to go back to basics, asking what our aims are for this work, and how are we monitoring progress and improving at every opportunity. Our commissioners at NHS England have been included in these conversations and are completely supportive and involved in moving this forward so we can all communicate the impact of this project more confidently.
- Releasing a series of films about our work. In 2017, part funded by Erasmus Plus, we commissioned a film maker to follow us round for a year. He became part of our event team, capturing behind the scenes footage and personal journeys as young people made their way through a year in our Youth Voice programme. We have released some of the films, but have a range still to release throughout this (our 70th!) year to bring to life and share stories about the impact that our work has on individuals and communities.
- Talking and sharing with others. Most of my thoughts and our direction has been shaped in conversation with others across the sector, in particular the work of the Centre for Youth Impact and a recent day led by Generation Change introducing their Impact Accelerator. As a small charity navigating the world of impact, these spaces and networks are invaluable and we will keep seeking collaborations and conversations. I am happy to share what we do (and don’t do), where our challenges are, what we’re excited about and more, so get in touch.