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.
Yesterday a former US Police Officer was convicted of murder after the death of African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis. The verdict, which was a historic moment, comes following almost a year of increased protesting seeking to address police brutality across the globe.
The British Youth Council remains angered by the abhorrent murders of Black Americans in the United States. The youth-led organisation called on decision makers to bring an end to anti-Black police brutality in the UK, as part of wider efforts to address the longstanding problems of racism and injustice.
Grassroots campaigners and young people demand an approach that addresses the root causes of the issues facing Black communities. The British Youth Council further believes we must listen to, and support, Black communities who have outlined how we end the global pandemic of anti-Black police brutality.
Speaking on behalf of the charity, Osaro Otobo, Deputy Chair of the British Youth Council said: “The death of George Floyd shook people across the globe, and yesterday’s verdict will serve as a historic moment for people for years to come.
“It’s imperative we do not lose sight of the need to continue to address deep-rooted racism in the United States and here in the United Kingdom. If we are to end anti-black police brutality in the UK, we must take steps dismantle and overhaul a system which enables racism and injustice.”
The charity feels it is reductive for representatives of the UK Government to acknowledge these events without recognises the clear evidence of systemic racism in this country too. With this in mind, the national youth council has called on the UK Government to reject the findings in the report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities and acknowledge the deep-rooted and systemic racism in the UK.
The British Youth Council are calling on the UK government to announce its plans to replace significant funding lost since the UK’s exit from the EU. Following the ratification of the new trading and cooperation agreement with the European Union, organisations in the UK have lost access to Erasmus Plus.
The youth-led charity is calling on Ministers to take steps to address the €1 billion shortfall in funding which will affect many organisations across the UK. More than 4,800 UK-based projects were awarded funding between 2014-2018. The EU programme enabled organisations to support young people to develop new skills, gain vital international experience and boost their employability. UK Youth Parliament and UK Young Ambassadors, which are coordinated by the British Youth Council, have both received significant funding and support from the European programme.
Sarah Staples, Chair, British Youth Council said: “It cannot be right that young people have lost out as a result of this new deal with the European Union. Many UK youth organisations will have to scale back their work with young people or stop their work altogether if this funding is not replaced. The government must prioritise creating some certainty for the future of this funding so young people can continue to have access to these opportunities in post-Brexit Britain.”
The programme was also well-known for student exchanges and enabling young people to study, volunteer and gain work experience. Despite promising otherwise, the UK government will no longer participate in any part of the programme. The government have since announced the inception of the Turing scheme, which is due to commence in September 2021, and will allow young people to study and do work placements in other countries. However, the British Youth Council has concerns that without action and a like-for-like replacement for Erasmus Plus young people in the UK will lose access to the informal educational opportunities which they have been able to access until now.
The national youth council has written to Gavin Williamson CBE MP, Secretary of State for Education and Oliver Dowden CBE MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to urge action so organisations can continue to deliver for young people post-Brexit.
The British Youth Council recognises that the majority of young people voted to remain in the European Union back in 2016. At the time young people were very concerned about employability prospects, opportunities for young people, threats to our education system and rising racism and fascism within our society. The British Youth Council urges the government to work with young people to ensure that they are given a voice on the global stage and to work with them to give them opportunities for education, to build relationships across national and cultural boundaries and to build their employability prospects.
Recently, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport and the British Youth Council launched Involved. Involved is a social media tool on Instagram that allows young people to become a part of the decision-making process. I have been lucky enough to witness the Involved’s journey from an idea to a fully functional tool for young people across the country. Over this time, I have been able to become more confident in Involved’s necessity. For as long as our democratic system has existed, the prevailing view has always been that young people should be seen and not heard.
However, our society relies on young people to be responsible for their education, their careers, and their personal development, without the right to financial support or a direct way of providing feedback on the government decisions that impact them. The past ten years have seen a comprehensive transformation in this regard. There is the UK Youth Parliament where all devolved administrations have a Youth Voice representative body. The recent allocation of funding shows that structured youth investment succeeds in the long term. What we continue to see now is the dialogue surrounding young people increasing. And why shouldn’t it?
During my apprenticeship, I paid tax like any other employee. I believed that failing my GCSEs would prevent any hope of further education. And so, I was responsible for my entire future at the age of 16. And now we see young people taking responsibility for more than just their futures. Young people are moving. They are marching and using their few rights and platforms to spread a message.
From climate change to racial injustice, young people, who I am proud to say I share a generation with, care about much more than just their future. They care about the future of humanity. Yes, we have more to learn, and of course, we will make mistakes along the way. Look at the actions of previous generations and you will see; we are just another stepping-stone in the development of humanity.
Now for Involved, another stepping-stone allowing young people to have a direct link to the decision makers. If there is a disconnection between young people and decision makers, then the process of decision making is broken. For the same reason a marketing consultant is consulted on marketing, young people should be consulted on policies aimed at them. I am grateful we now have this belief established in some government departments. And those departments want to know more to do more, and that is why the young people we see marching, protesting and demanding the government to listen, can now be listened to.
It is just the beginning of Involved as a platform for young people to be heard, and there are certainly more steps to be taken for the Government to listen to young people. However, if we take this as the olive branch it is, we can keep moving. We can build a more open society that is not afraid to have the frank discussions it needs to progress. I will not forget the journey that was developing Involved, but I know that the best is yet to come.
For the last few weeks the general public had the opportunity to get their voices heard by submitting questions to the daily Coronavirus press conference. This gives ordinary people the chance to hear expert scientific and medical advice on specific problems they are facing during this unprecedented time. There is, however, one thing which can exclude you from submitting a question: you must be over the age of 18.
Recently, Nadia Whittome MP, one of the British Youth Council’s Honorary Presidents, asked the government to explain why young people under 18 were excluded from submitting their questions. The government responded that giving these young people this opportunity would “require further processes and additional protections to ensure that privacy is protected.” In summary, it seems that the government is actively neglecting the voices of young people simply to avoid carrying out some further administrative work.
This is simply not good enough.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, young people have overwhelmingly followed government advice. Along with the rest of the country, they have sacrificed social events, experienced financial hardship, and missed out on seeing loved ones. Like everyone else they have stayed at home in order to protect the NHS and our other vital public services, adapting admirably quickly to life within this new normal. However, unlike everyone else, young people who are under 18 are being denied the important opportunity to speak directly to the government about the concerns that affect them most.
With schools closed, GCSEs and A Levels cancelled, and education more of a postcode lottery than ever before, now is the time for the government to engage with young people directly.
Excluding under-18s from these press conferences means that students are denied the opportunity to publicly question the government on alternative arrangements for schooling and exams, and the long term effects of these on employment and mental health. These young people are already facing huge levels of uncertainty. The government should at least allow them the chance to get the answers they so desperately need from the cabinet ministers handling the COVID-19 response.
Additionally, we are joining with other leading youth organisations to request that the Prime Minister hold a press conference specifically for young people. Recent surveys indicate 67% of young people are concerned about the effects of COVID-19 on their education and development, and 39% feel worried about their own mental wellbeing due to the pandemic. These concerns cannot be addressed without direct conversations with experts and ministers. By giving young people their own press conference and by allowing under 18s to submit questions to the daily press conference, the government could signal that it is listening to young people and giving them a meaningful say on the decisions that affect them.
The Chair of the British Youth Council, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, who agrees, said: “Young people remain passionate about seeing social and political change for their communities, and now is not the time to ignore their voices.
“As the government continues to make unprecedented decisions that affect the lives of young people, the government must make attempts to speak directly with young people and address the issues that affect them.”
The British Youth Council firmly believes that in the midst of COVID-19 young people deserve to have answers to their questions.
We are asking the Government to ensure that young people under 18 across the UK can submit questions to the daily Coronavirus press conference and that the government endeavours to hold a young people’s press conference as soon as possible.
Within the uncertainty of our Coronavirus world lies one absolute guarantee: our society will change. As chair of the British Youth Council and someone doing their best to guide a charity through a global pandemic, I fully appreciate how erratic our daily lives have become. The disorientating speed at which we all have to make decisions, and process news contrasts with being unable to socialise or spend time outside, makes everyday feel like a year, with weeks dragging or flying by. So whilst I do not envy the scale and pace that Government decision makers have to compete with, I know I am not alone in becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of public discussion or focus on how Coronavirus, or specifically COVID-19 will impact young people. Frankly, it is woeful that the generation who will have to endure the economic and social consequences of COVID-19 for the longest have not been consulted or focused on in any top level conversations. Taking three, simple steps could prove to be the fundamental changes needed to ensure that we are all embracing the fact that now, more than ever, young people matter.
Firstly, we desperately need someone to provide focused leadership on how we ensure children and young people (or ‘Generation COVID’) are not left behind when we face our new normal. Each day that schools remain closed, inequality between children widens, and the longer we are rightly following the social distancing rules, the more pronounced the mental health implications could become. An urgent, assured way to address these issues is to appoint a youth minister. We need someone responsible for bringing together experts across all departments and sectors. We need someone to plan how we safeguard the last ten years of social mobility progression. This new, point person would ensure that our plan for returning to education is complemented with research and action, and that we understand how social distancing affects our mental health.
Secondly, now is the time for the Government to be brave and elevate young voices, rather than perpetuating the archaic idea that children ‘should be seen, and not heard.’ This would mean throwing open the doors to young people full of urgent questions and ideas. However, barriers still exist with daily press conferences restricting public questions to over 18’s only. We should unashamedly follow in the footsteps of other world leaders who have specifically held youth press conferences. By empowering young people across the UK to vocalise their concerns, it would give ministers a valuable insight into the mindset of generations who will be burdened by our Coronavirus response. Other institutions, such as the Bank of England, are tackling the pandemic with young people at the forefront, and I highly suspect they will come out of this stronger. For example, the British Youth Council recently partnered with the Bank of England to establish the Bank of England Youth Forum. Members of the forum are currently gathering the financial concerns and questions of young people to put these to the Chief Economist, Andy Haldane.
Lastly, the sooner we all embrace the fact that the ‘pre-COVID’ priorities of younger generations are not going away, the sooner we can start to work across generations to find ways of embedding them into our collective exit strategy. How can we ensure our economy is supported and secure jobs are prioritised? How can we incorporate the environmental targets we cannot afford to drop? When the future of work looks grim for the under 30s, how can society collectively alleviate the concerns of the younger generations, who are often in precarious employment? Many politicians have admitted that our society will not be the same again, so let us try and work towards a society where the overwhelming priorities of the under 30s – such as tackling the climate crisis, and addressing the socio-economic factors that lead to knife crime – are built into the fabric of the new, (hopefully) post-COVID 19 society.
So far, it is apparent that the Government is dealing with the current health crisis as it develops, and the postmortem on how well or not they did this appears to be starting. Yet, I fear our policy makers are already behind in recognising how severe this global pandemic is going to impact the next generations; if we do not start to embed the voices of young people into our decision making structures now, we will be worse off sooner rather than later.
We are excited to announce the British Youth Council’s support for Teach the Future, a campaign to reform the education system to reflect the severity of the climate crisis and ecological emergency.
For a number of years, the British Youth Council have worked to convince the Government to introduce statutory and compulsory high-quality citizenship education to the curriculum. The Youth Select Committee’s report in 2013 ‘A Curriculum for Life’ concluded life skills education in schools falls short of its full potential, and ever since, youth representatives across the country have demanded concrete commitments from the government to improve this. In 2018, the Government listened to some of our recommendations by committing to mandatory sex and relationship education. However, this does not go far enough to prepare young people for their future.
It is clear that the scope of the current citizenship curriculum is far too narrow and must be broadened to educate young people on wider political and constitutional rights as well as global issues including sustainability, and the climate. A vital finding of the Youth Select Committee’s report on a Curriculum for Life was that young people are willing and eager to take part in shaping the curriculum to ensure that it addresses the issues which they are facing. All too often schools do not take full advantage of this creative energy. Young people know what issues they face, and should be given the opportunity to shape the curriculum to address their concerns. Through observing the recent school strikes and the full breadth of climate activism, it is undeniable that young people are passionate about doing all they can to protect the planet and attain a greener future.
However, research from the Green Schools Project showed that just 4% of students feel they know a lot about climate change, whilst polling last year showed that 68% of students want to learn more about this, and 71% believe that climate change education should be part of the school curriculum. The appetite among young people to learn and take action is being squandered. Young people want to protect the planet, which is why in November of last year, Members of Youth Parliament gathered in the House of Commons and voted to make Protecting the Environment one of their campaign priorities for the next year. The British Youth Council backs this widespread action and enthusiasm to learn about climate change amongst young people and supports the multiplicity of climate action projects being carried out by young leaders across the country.
All of this is why we have become a supportive partner of Teach the Future! Along with dozens of other organisations and activists, we are calling on the Government to reform the education system to reflect the severity of the climate crisis which we now face. We want the Government to review how the education system prepares young people for the climate emergency and the ecological crisis, along with including the climate emergency in all teacher training.
You can find out how you can support the campaign by visiting the website at www.teachthefuture.uk
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 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.