The British Youth Council are delighted to welcome new charities minister, Nigel Huddleston MP, who will take on responsibility for youth policy at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport following the departure of Baroness Barran MBE who has been in charge of the brief since November 2018 and has moved to the Department for Education in the latest reshuffle. The reshuffle also comes shortly after the closure of the Office for Civil Society which will now form part of the Civil Society and Youth Directorate within the department.
Commenting on the appointment of the new minister, Sarah Staples, Chair of British Youth Council said: “The British Youth Council are looking forward to working with the new minister to ensure young people’s voices remain at the heart of government decision making.
“Young people are passionate about seeing social and political change in the UK so we’ll continue to work with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to ensure young people’s voices are heard and their concerns are addressed.”
The charity, which is led by young people, will write 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 long-standing 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.
Osaro Otobo, Deputy Chair of the British Youth Council said: “We’ve made repeated attempts with successive governments, to make the case for a dedicated Minister for Young People.
“The brief has become much bigger again under this new appointment so we’ll continue to request further reassurances that the size of the brief won’t result in young people’s priorities being ignored. It cannot be right that policy relating to young people will be coupled with so many other departmental priorities.”
We will also use this as an opportunity to highlight the most important issues facing young people living in the UK. The British Youth Council has been highlighting the climate emergency, continued child poverty, lowering the voting age to 16 and mental health since the last general election. The British Youth Council have worked under various government departments since 2011 to deliver the UK Youth Parliament programme, which is currently supported by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The programme aims to give young people the opportunity to influence public decision-making at a local and national level through democratic representation.
The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee has expressed disappointment at the government’s continued punitive approach to knife crime. In response to the Youth Select Committee’s knife crime report, the government have laid out their plans to combat the knife crime epidemic.
Responding to the report, the government stated it was ‘determined to tackle the scourge of serious violence’. The Committee has scrutinised the response and welcomes the government’s investment in Violence Reduction Units. It also applauded the government’s commitment to listening to the wider community including young people as part of the Serious Violence Strategy.
In response, the Government committed to tackling violent crime, including addressing key drivers of crime and diverting people away from involvement in serious violence. The Government emphasised targeted investment in early intervention programmes that will help young people, as well as initiatives to support youth workers, ex-offenders and those who have been expelled from school.
However, the committee is concerned to learn the government has ignored many of the recommendations made by the group of young people. Following the response, the committee wishes to reiterate some of their key recommendations and underline the importance of meaningfully engaging young people in decision making.
The committee recommends:
- The Committee were particularly disappointed to see the government taking steps to introduce the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which only serves to extend punitive measures and could take more steps to enshrine preventative measures into law.
- The Government should roll back the extension of stop and search powers until the disproportionate targeting of Black men has been addressed. The Committee is especially concerned that the Serious Violence Reduction Order, which gave police personalised powers to target “proven criminals”, may lead to greater targeting of Black men; this power will make it easier to stop and search with no immediate reason.
- The Government should develop a plan with clear targets and deadlines aimed at tackling the injustices which make a young person more vulnerable to knife crime. The Government has highlighted welcome investment for the youth sector but, in their response to the Committee’s report, has not set out a strategy for how they will address the systemic issues which trap young people in a cycle of violence.
- The Government should commit to long term funding plans of at least 5 years to ensure partners are able to develop effective ways of helping young people at risk of knife crime. The Committee noted that many of the interventions highlighted in their response were only funded over 1-3 years.
- The Government should continue to work to ensure that the views of young people and those with lived experience of knife crime is embedded into the Serious Violence Strategy.
Commenting on the government’s response to the report on knife crime, Rachel Ojo, Chair of the Youth Select Committee, said: “The Youth Select Committee is very pleased to have finally received a response from the Government – over a year after our report was released.
“The issue of violent knife crime is one of the biggest facing young people in this country and we are glad that some of our recommendations have been agreed to. However, we feel the government could be doing much more and we implore the government to act on their commitment, to ensure that tackling knife crime is not only top of their agenda but that preventative measures take priority.”
Knife crime continues to be a significant issue in England and Wales, according to official figures from the Office for National Statistics. Research from the House of Commons Library also showed that knife crime, particularly where it affects young people, has been a ‘persistent and growing concern’ for successive governments.
The response from the Home Office has been issued following the committees thorough inquiry. Knife crime was examined following a UK-wide ballot of 1.1 million young people aged 11 to 18, in which young people declared knife crime their biggest concern. Subsequently the investigation concluded knife crime was fuelled by cuts to important and arguably life-saving public services for vulnerable young people. The committee concluded that socio-economic factors are crucial in making some young people vulnerable to violence, gangs and knife crime and highlighted the need for better services to reach those at risk.
The Youth Select Committee, which is supported by UK Parliament and the British Youth Council, gives young people the opportunity to scrutinise and hold inquiries into topics that matter to them. The Committee is made up of eleven committee members aged 11-18 and include Members of the UK Youth Parliament, Youth Councillors and representatives from each of the devolved nations.
The British Youth Council are urging the UK Government to address the concerns of young people in any further Brexit negotiations. The youth-led charity has repeatedly highlighted the importance of including young people in decisions that will affect their future.
The importance of maintaining funding opportunities, such as the Erasmus+ programme, remains a priority for members of the British Youth Council. Despite reassurances from the Government, the British Youth Council also stressed the importance of young people and youth organisations having access to the same opportunities. The statement was made in response to the Commons vote which took place on Wednesday 8th January 2020, which saw Members of Parliament vote against compelling officials to negotiate continuing full membership of the programme.
A spokesperson for the British Youth Council said: “Young people’s voices need to be heard in the future Brexit negotiations, not just as a footnote, but as key stakeholders in the future of the country.
“Moving forward we’d like to see young people more involved in the decision making so we can ensure young people don’t loose out in post-Brexit Britain.”
The charity expressed disappointment at the Government’s decision to ignore calls for a second referendum on the final Brexit Deal. The British Youth Council recognise that in 2016 the majority of young people voted to remain in the European Union. Young people were very concerned about employability prospects, opportunities for young people, threats to our education system and concerns about rising racism and fascism within our society.
Young people aged 16 and 17 were also wrongly excluded from the EU Referendum, according to the national charity. The British Youth Council continues to acknowledge that these young people, all of whom are now eligible to vote, were denied the opportunity to participate despite growing support among politicians from across the political spectrum.
The British Youth Council have supported calls for the Government to take steps to deliver a fairer society by supporting younger people in the housing and employment market.
In a new report published by the House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision, the Government is also asked to ensure local authorities have specific planning policies to meet the housing needs of young people. The Committee also goes on to recommend the Government make substantial increases in funding for Further Education and vocational training to tackle unfairness between those to go onto Higher Education and those who do not.
The British Youth Council also backed calls for make the government to make PSHE a statutory subject that is inspected by Ofsted and includes education about housing and finance matters. The national youth council has made repeated calls for statutory PSHE over a number of years. In a ballot of over 1.1 million young people, which was coordinated by the British Youth Council, a curriculum that prepares students for life was one of the top five issues.
Commending on the report findings, Lewis Addlington-Lee, Deputy Chair of the British Youth Council said: “The British Youth Council welcome the findings of the House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision.
“The Lord Committee’s findings make it clear more affordable housing, the introduction of statutory PSHE and investment in services such as youth provision and a Government willing to listen to the needs of young people will help us to tackle international unfairness and importantly build a fairer society.”
The national youth-led charity believes there is a lack of affordable housing for young people in some rural areas; exacerbating the problems that young people face in remaining in or moving into rural areas to work and live. The British Youth Council believe that there is a need to look for sustainable solutions to rural housing problems.
The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee has received an official response from the Government about their report on body image and the impact it has on the well-being of children and young people. The Government have stated body dissatisfaction is an issue of enormous concern to young people and their parents.
The comprehensive response from the Government Equalities Office comes following the committee’s inquiry, which concluded body dissatisfaction was causing long-lasting consequences for young people. In the response, the Government acknowledges the gaps which remain in its understanding of the many complex factors that contribute towards body dissatisfaction, including the specific challenges faced by young men, LGBT+ community, ethnic minorities, and those with disabilities or serious illnesses.
The response, which offers an answer to each of the Youth Select Committee’s recommendations, makes a commitment to further understand body image in specific groups as part of their broader endeavour to better understand the causes and impact of body dissatisfaction.
In November, the committee made it clear the Government needed to ensure young people, parents, and teachers knew where to go for support on body image. The Government has since pledged to undertake an audit of available resources.
Thomas Copeland, Chair of the Youth Select Committee, said: “The Youth Select Committee welcomes the Government’s response to the committee’s report ‘A Body Confident Future’.
“We are pleased to see the Government have not only recognised the importance of body image but have also acknowledged gaps in its understanding of the many complex factors that contribute towards body dissatisfaction.
“The Government have made a number of commitments in their response, including a commitment to further understand how body dissatisfaction affects different groups. We look forward to seeing how the Government goes on to ensure their commitments are implemented as soon as possible. Young people’s mental health and well-being must be taken seriously if we are to mitigate the detrimental effects of body dissatisfaction.”
The conclusions of the report has since influenced the launch of a separate inquiry by the Science and Technology Select Committee into the impact of social media and screen-use on young people’s health. In response to the recommendations of the committee, NHS England has also been working with the NHS Youth Forum to raise awareness of body image through a new poster campaign.
Kath Evans, Experience of Care Lead for NHS England said “NHS England is delighted to have worked with the NHS Youth Forum to ensure a poster is developed to raise awareness about body image that can be displayed in a range of different settings as recommended by the Youth Select Committee inquiry.
“Young people themselves know what matters most to them and their peers, vitally they know how to capture the attention of other young people, they have led the way, demonstrating ongoing collaboration to keep improving experiences of care.”
The Youth Select Committee, who were aged 13-18, included Members of the Youth Parliament, Youth Councillors, a Youth Mayor and representatives from each of the devolved nations. This year’s committee will investigate the barriers preventing young people from accessing work experience.