The last three years I have spent as a member of the UK Youth Parliament has proved to me that the chamber is where young people’s voices belong. It has shown me that young people are a driving force behind change and will create a better, brighter future for our world.
UK Youth Parliament is formed up of a diverse group of young people with 53% female members, 34% identifying as BAME, and 23% identifying as having a disability. This is something all of our members are extremely proud of as this shows that, no matter who you are, that you do have a voice and will be listened to. Imogen Walsh, the steering group member for the North West, said: “The Youth Parliament consistently has a gender-balanced cohort and is a safe place for LGBT+ young people, respecting preferred pronouns and names.”
UK Youth Parliament provides opportunities for many young people, especially the marginalised. Becoming a member has helped them develop confidence and feel welcomed in politics. Meera Saravanan, Member of Youth Parliament for Trafford, said: “The Youth Parliament has given so many young people a platform to stand up for what they believe in.”
We also hold the largest youth consultation in Europe every year. The Make Your Mark ballot highlights the key issues for young people across the UK, which is taken to the House of Commons and debated. Stuart Dunne, CEO of Youth Focus North West, commends the Members of Youth Parliament’s work saying: “The young people in the UK Youth Parliament do a wonderful job in enthusing and engaging their peers.” In 2018, the Make Your Mark ballot received over one million votes. This is our highest ever turnout and proves that young people are very politically engaged.
I highly commend Members of the Youth Parliament, past and present, on their campaigning. When I was only 14-years-old I was surrounded by inspirational people such as Haroon Irshad (former Member of Youth Parliament for Birmingham), whose courage to stand up for what he believes in never failed to inspire me; Jess Leigh (Former Member of Youth Parliament for Cheshire), who fought for young women to speak up about sexual harassment emboldened myself and many other young women to do so; and Emma Greenwood (Member of Youth Parliament for Bury), who persistently campaigns to protect our planet’s future. I could write all day about every member who has inspired me, but then we’d have a list three hundred people long.
Members of Youth Parliament consistently run fantastic campaigns to aid the young people that they represent. For example, Alex Davies (Member of Youth Parliament for Stockport) runs No Child Left Behind UK, which campaigns towards increasing support given to bereaved young people; Eva Carroll (Former Member of Youth Parliament for Liverpool) ran a very successful campaign around street harassment, and 43 of this year’s Members of Youth Parliament came together to create a video campaign to thank all key workers for their efforts at this time.
I have never felt more welcome than when I attend UK Youth Parliament events. When I was younger, I thought being involved in politics was impossible. Now, because of the UK Youth Parliament, I have been given a voice on a national platform to represent young people. For me, the UK Youth Parliament bridged the gap between me – a young, working-class woman to the House of Commons chamber. I hope that the UK Youth Parliament will do the same for many others like me in the future.
UK Youth Parliament shows how diverse our nation is and how driven young people are to inspire and instigate change, no matter what barriers they must overcome. To any young people reading this, I want you to know that YOU can make a change. In the words of Dr Seuss: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better”.
I will end with a final message from Jess Leigh: “The UK Youth Parliament is more than just a political organisation, it is a support network, a voice and a hope for the future.” I think she has perfectly captured the essence of the UK Youth Parliament, and I hope that many of you would be inclined to agree.
Dmitrijs Meiksans and Faith Oliver have been nominated for the National Diversity Awards 2020 for their work as Members of Youth Parliament and advocates within their communities. The National Diversity Awards celebrate the excellent achievements of grass-root communities that tackle the issues in today’s society.
Dmitrijs, aged 14, was nominated for the Positive Role Model award in the Age category, in recognition of his work within the youth sector, his dedication to supporting young people’s mental health and speaking out about bullying. Besides being a Member of Youth Parliament, Dmitrijs is also heavily involved within his local community. He is the Vice-Chair of the Hampshire Youth Network, Youth Ambassador for local Test-Valley based charity Unity and the Youth Advisor to the Board of Trustees for Andover Trees United.
Dmitrijs Meiksans, Member of Youth Parliament for Member of Youth Parliament for North West Hampshire, said: “Shocked is not the word to describe what I am feeling. I feel grateful and thankful to whoever nominated me for this honourable award.”
He continued to say: “I never thought doing something you were passionate about would win you anything. I simply started with a goal to make a difference to young people’s lives and inspire those who have struggled with their mental health and those who have experienced bullying”.
Faith, aged 16, was also nominated for the Positive Role Model award, within the LGBT category, highlighting the powerful and inspiring work Faith does for the community, including her campaign to criminalise conversion therapy.
Faith Oliver, Member of Youth Parliament for Stockport said: “I greatly appreciate my nomination for this year’s National Diversity Awards. I take great pride in being able to represent my community. Being recognised for my work on criminalising conversion therapy and reducing the stigma around speaking up about hate crime makes me extremely grateful.”
Both of these young people continue to make a momentous difference to both young people and their communities and we would encourage everyone to vote for them in their respective categories. Voting is now open until Friday 15th May.
Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council, the charity which organises UK Youth Parliament, said: “Congratulations to Faith and Dmitrijs! I’m delighted to learn they have been nominated for a National Diversity Award for the tremendous social action they have led on in their local communities.
“Young people are committed to bringing about social and political change in their community and I’m excited to hear to see the value of their voices being recognised by such a prestigious award”
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
UK Youth Parliament have launched their national campaigns, ‘Protect Our Future’, which demands action to halt the climate emergency and ‘Youth Action on Knife Crime’ which calls on the UK Government to address knife crime as a public health issue. Young people declared climate change a top concern with knife crime also becoming a priority for the second time.
A Spokesperson for the UK Youth Parliament said: “The climate emergency and knife crime are the biggest issues facing young people and politicians must work to address their concerns with some urgency and with young people’s voices at the table.”
The climate change campaign recognises the situation will only be improved by the combination of individual action and government-level change. Members of Youth Parliament believe the government must act to halt the impact of climate change. UK Youth Parliament state young people’s voices should be at the heart of decision making as they will be most affected by climate change in the future.
Knife crime remains a priority for the UK Youth Parliament, following a year highlighting the prevalence of knife crime in the UK. This years campaign will continue to back the Youth Violence Commission’s calls for the Government to adopt a public health approach but will also call on the Government to roll back the use of ‘stop and search’ as a method of addressing knife carrying.
Each campaign was chosen following the UK Youth Parliament’s debate within the House of Commons chamber on Friday 8th November 2019.
UK Youth Parliament have chosen to focus on the climate emergency and knife crime in 2020. The new campaigns have been declared following the UK Youth Parliament’s debate within the House of Commons chamber on Friday 8th November 2019. Climate change was declared a top concern in the UK Youth Parliament’s Make Your Mark ballot of over 800,000 young people.
The annual session was chaired by the newly elected Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP and Deputy Speaker, Dame Eleanor Laing MP over the course of one day. Passionate speeches and eloquent arguments were made on the most important issues affecting young people. During the debates, UK Youth Parliament debated ‘ending knife crime’, ‘mental health’, ‘curriculum for life’, ‘tackling hate crime’ and ‘protect the environment’.
UK Youth Parliament is made up of young people from across the UK, who are elected by 11-18-year olds in constituencies to represent them and use their voice to raise the issues which affect them. At the end of the day, Members of the Youth Parliament walked through the famous voting lobbies of the House of Commons to select climate change as the petition to be debated by MPs in the new Parliament.
The Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle said “It is so important that young people are politically engaged in politics today, and that is why it was my pleasure to preside over the 11th sitting of the UK Youth Parliament.
Not only were the debaters very skilled, I am quite sure many of those taking part will be returning to our green benches in the years to come.”
Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council, the charity which organises UK Youth Parliament, said: “Climate change and knife crime are two of the biggest issues facing young people, according to the UK Youth Parliament’s ballot.
“Members of Youth Parliament took these issues to the heart of our democracy, Parliament, and it is now for MPs and Government to ensure action is taken to address these issues.”
Members of Youth Parliament are set to formally launch the campaigns during their day of action in January 2020. UK Youth Parliament have started to develop campaign actions for the campaigns ahead.
A lot has happened at the British Youth Council this year. From reaching 1.1 million young people in Make Your Mark, the largest youth consultation in the country, to celebrating our 70th anniversary and using this as an opportunity to engage with new Alumni networks.
We also secured funding from the People’s Postcode Lottery to follow up on the outcomes of the Youth Select Committee for the first time – this allowed a work experience action group to be formed who are creating a toolkit for young people.
We’ve also continued to strengthen our youth forums with the NHS and the Bank of England, which have Youth Voice at their core. Finally, we are approaching a milestone as the UK Youth Parliament approaches its 20th anniversary! Your commitment and support has made it possible to deliver this for so many years.
None of this could be achieved without the incredible support of our donors and continued supporters – it was you who made it happen. Investing in the British Youth Council means investing in the lives of young people and creating a world where they are empowered to inform the decisions that affect their lives. So by supporting our cause you are making space for positive social change!
From the British Youth Council Team and all those who benefit from your support, a huge THANK YOU!
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 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”
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
On the 50th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act receiving Royal Assent, The British Youth Council, UK Youth Parliament and Votes at 16 Coalition call on the Government to lower the voting age to 16 in all elections and referenda taking place in the UK.
The renewed calls comes following repeated attempts to extend the franchise by Members of Parliament. In a recent report published earlier this month, a cross-party group of parliamentarians made the compelling case for ‘votes at 16’.
The British Youth Council believe that 16 and 17 year olds should be given the vote in all public elections in the UK. The youth-led charity, which has been campaigning on votes at 16 since 2003, believe that at 16 we are mature enough to engage in, and contribute to, our democracy through having the vote.
Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “It makes no sense that some 16 and 17 year olds are prevented from voting in elections and referenda. The Government must concede and implement a lowering voting age in all elections!”
Support for a lower voting age has increased over the last 20 years with politicians from across the political spectrum announcing their support for a lower voting age. 16 and 17 year olds are allowed to vote in the Scottish Parliamentary elections and Scottish Local Council elections and are due to get a vote in the Welsh local elections, making it harder to deny an extension to the franchise in all elections. Votes at 16 has also been a long-standing campaign for Members of Youth Parliament with the issue topping the youth agenda on five occasions since 2011 in the Make Your Mark ballot.