The British Youth Council have praised the UK Labour Party for publishing comprehensive plans for statutory youth services. The youth-led charity also called on other political parties to set out their proposals for services that meet the needs of young people growing up in the UK.
The new plans, which were published as part of Labour’s vision for ‘Rebuilding Youth Services’, also include pledges to support regional, national and international collaboration. Within the vision, the political party outlines plans to maintain a close future relationship with the EU and cooperate with Member States and other European countries to co-ordinate youth policy. Members of the British Youth Council have stressed the importance of recognising European and global youth work in the UK, particularly initiatives that connect European affairs and young people’s everyday lives.
Commenting on pledge, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council said: “Youth services across the country have been decimated since 2010. Labour’s comprehensive plan responds to the growing concerns of young people. Youth services need proper funding and a long-term vision so we can build a more fairer, safer and stronger environment for younger generations.
“We’d love you see more political parties making detailed offers to young people that directly address the multifaceted issues they face growing up in the UK”
The new commitments from the Labour Party, which follows recent announcements from the Government confirming a new Youth Investment Fund, includes a pledge to strengthen the UK Youth Parliament and local youth councils.
Responding to the announcement, Simran Sangherra, a member of the Procedures Group, which coordinates the UK Youth Parliament said: “We welcome Labour’s new commitments to statutory youth services. Young campaigners have been calling for better youth services for almost 10 years because we recognise how much they can support young people’s social and development needs.
“We’re also delighted to learn of their intention to strengthen youth voice. Young people should be at the forefront of decision making that affects their lives and UK Youth Parliament can play an important role in bringing about social change through meaningful representation and campaigning.”
As part of their plan, the opposition party also responded to long-standing calls for a dedicated minister, confirming they intend to appoint a Minister for Children and Young People with responsibility for the youth services at the Department for Education.
The British Youth Council welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to increase funding for youth services, following repeated calls for change from young people across the country.
Sajid Javid, Chancellor of the Exchequer, confirmed Government plans to introduce a new Youth Investment Fund. The new funding is set to help build new youth centres, refurbish exciting youth facilitates and provide mobile facilities for harder to reach areas. The Chancellor confirmed the £500 million funds would also support the provision and coordination of high-quality services for young people and an investment in the youth workforce.
Commenting on the new fund, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council said: “We’re delighted to learn of the new confirmed funding which is being set aside for youth services. Young people should have access to youth services, regardless of where they live. We’ve been asking the Government to recognise the value of youth services for almost a decade because so many young people rely on these services.
“We know that young people face a multitude of issues. Youth services can play an integral role in creating a fairer, safer and stronger environment for young people.”
The British Youth Council have been campaigning for increased funding for youth provisions since 2010 when the Government cuts resulted in youth services across the UK suffering. The youth-led charity believes youth services are an important addition to young people’s formal education. Young people have persistently reminded the Government that youth services provide a supportive place for young people to become a force for good in society.
The British Youth Council have been working with other leading youth organisations to highlight the importance of offering young people opportunities in their communities.
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.
I hear this so often from people, in regards to what many view as young people’s political disengagement. Not only is this stance is overly-simplistic and lacking in nuance, it’s fatalistic. It takes no accountability for encouraging further political engagement via traditional, more visible and measurable channels. If this argument were the case one would have to ask, chicken-or-egg-style; what came first? The de-prioritisation of young people within policy and mainstream political channels, or the supposed disengagement of young people from said channels? It’s easy to draw loose correlations void of analysis, but if we truly care about empowering young people to be effective political actors we must do more.
An example of a small action that would contribute to removing obstacles from the paths of budding young political actors, would be to avoid calling elections in the middle of exam periods. Many students have flagged this as an issue; not just finding the time to physically vote during such a crucial point in our lives, but to go through the respective party manifestos to make a thoroughly informed decision, also taking the time to understand where votes would be most effective (in the constituency of their university address or permanent home). This requires a fair understanding of how our political system works, yet no party has taken responsibility for making political education compulsory. In spite of this, over 90,000 young people aged 18 to 24 registered to vote on the 21st May this year alone. Last year there was a 64% turnout for the same age group during the EU referendum (not too far off the average turnout).
A UNISON report has shown that between April 2010 – 2016 an estimated £387m was cut from youth service spending. We, as young people, have had to endure consistent chipping away of the provisions we need within society, from the disappearance of youth clubs, careers services and the merging of youth work with other social services and as a result a reduction in specialist youth work roles. Young people have endured the tripling of university fees, funding to support them in education such as EMA scrapped, alongside housing benefit being stripped from 18-21 year olds.
Young people’s contributions to society and experiences are often downplayed to our disservice. Our current Prime Minister recently ruled out lowering the voting age to 16 if her Party is re-elected into office on June 8th. At the age of 16 we are eligible to join the army, and eligible to pay tax in a country we are not given the right to vote in. A common argument raised here is that young people lack experience. Yet it is counterintuitive to expect anyone other than a young person to have a greater real time experience of what it is like to be a young person. Of course, it is impossible to do this area justice in one blog post, but I hope this highlights just a few things that we must all consider when it comes to empowering young people politically, so that we can have a strong and stable government, changing Britain’s future for the many not the few.
Young people live and breathe social media, from snapchatting their friends to updating their status on Facebook. Most of the interactions are harmless, friends sharing good times, but knowing what hides behind the scenes of social media interactions is essential. In this ever evolving technological world we need to understand exactly what young people are facing in the current climate of the new world of social media and how vulnerable this can potentially make our younger generation.
Through the power of services like youth work, supporting young people could be the key to helping them face the issues that trouble them the most. This could be anything from cyberbullying and social media trolls to a deeper darker side of the internet involved with child grooming and sexual exploitation. Only yesterday did I stumble across the codes young people use in online chat so their parents are unaware of what is happening. These codes include: LMIRL (let’s meet in real life), CU46 (see you for sex), WTTP (want to trade pictures), KYS (kill yourself) plus many others. But now is the time to find a safe way for the younger generation to enjoy the internet but be protected from potential risks. Media such as Facebook and Twitter should invest more in developing software which highlights when unpleasant events happen during interactions between profiles, to the exchange of unsavoury photographs shared from a young person’s profile.
This election I urge politicians to fight for young people and their online safety, help them develop through supported networks and channels, enable them to have a safe community hub to attend when they need someone to talk to, who they can view as a friendly help rather than someone of authority. A community hub should be a safe place, close to home that young people can access for free with communal Wi-fi, interactive workshops plus a cool place to be with their friends. Even offer sexual health advice and consent discussions. It’s about time the way young people access help and advice is revolutionised. Through this channel of communication, youth workers and services will be able to highlight potential issues and help young people solve them in an approachable way.
Being young should be about discovering who you are, spending time with friends, being free and careless. The transition from adolescent to adult is an exciting yet challenging time, as you are maturing, gaining qualifications, seeking employment, studying maybe looking for the next opportunity on the horizon. No one should have to worry when the next threatening text is coming, or what will happen if their latest snapchat isn’t on ‘fleek’.
It’s time for the younger generation to be empowered and become whoever they want to be! #NoFilter