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.
Following a year-long series of projects the NHS England Youth Forum have released reports and resources which encompass their drive to address the issues young people face in healthcare. The reports and resources focus on trans and non-binary rights in healthcare, health inequalities and the experiences of young people with special educational needs and disabilities or long term conditions in educational settings.
Speaking on behalf of the NHS England Youth Forum, Haris Sultan said: “Working collectively with so many passionate young people across the country despite COVID-19 to produce these resources and reports has been so rewarding. The work we’ve been able to produce is direct evidence that when you include young people’s voices at the heart of important and pressing issues, we will not only highlight the issues but find the solutions too.
“We’ve been able to produce three reports on vital issues such as trans and non-binary rights in healthcare, health inequalities for minority ethnic communities and medical education and the experiences of children and young people with special educational needs and/or long-term conditions.
“Young people and professionals working in a healthcare environment now have a set of resources that will lead to young people to having much better experiences and will shape the health system of tomorrow”
The NHS England Youth Forum is made up of 25 young people from across England. The Forum is delivered by the British Youth Council and works in partnership with NHS England to challenge and feed in ideas and solutions regarding health care and services. The British Youth Council established the NHS England Youth Forum in 2014 believing professionals in healthcare could and should do things differently to engage young people in the NHS and to amplify the voice of 15 million under 20-year-olds across England.
About the campaign
In 2020’s Make Your Mark ballot young people voted for free university as one of their top 3 priorities for the coming year. UK Youth Parliament will be campaigning alongside the National Union of Students (NUS) to create a campaign for free, lifelong and inclusive education and advocate for the Government to adopt it as we move forward into Covid-19 recovery.
We’ll be working with you to listen to young people, create a manifesto for inclusive education and campaign so that education is given the attention it deserves by decision makers locally and nationally in the coming year.
The NUS have developed resources to run “Transforming Education” events. You can run these in your school or town hall. At this event you’ll work with other young people to create a “Manifesto for Inclusive Education which we’ll then use to advocate for an inclusive vision of education moving forward. We’ll work with politicians from across parties to host a Parliamentary event campaigning for the vision we develop together.
University and Education Facts and Statistics
- In 2020, students graduating from English universities will have incurred an average of £40,280 of student loan debt, compared with £24,960 in Wales, £23,520 in Northern Ireland, and £13,890 in Scotland.
- The value of outstanding student loans at the end of March 2020 reached £140 billion
- In 2020 interest rates on student loans continued to rise. In September they went from 5.4% to 5.6%.
- NUS estimate that around 20% of students have been unable to access their learning at all during covid-19, and 33% do not believe it to have been good quality.
- In 2019, a 26 percent black attainment gap existed between the proportion of ‘top degrees’ (first or a 2:1 degree) achieved by white students and students of colour.
UK Youth Parliament launched their national campaigns calling on the government to address the climate emergency, mental health concerns and access to higher education. The year-long campaigns are set to challenge decision makers to do more to ensure young people’s mental health is prioritised in the coming year, to create free, lifelong and inclusive higher education and lastly to stop non-essential single-use plastics by 2025.
A Spokesperson for the UK Youth Parliament said: “Young people have a clear ambitious vision for our future, and it’s important decision makers take action to address our concerns as we commence our recovering from this global pandemic.
“In our vision for a better society young people have been clear they want action on the climate emergency, they wish to see young people’s mental health given the attention it deserves and a government that invests in the young people of today by providing free university education.”
Members of Youth Parliament believe the climate emergency remains one of the biggest threats to our planet. Amongst many other issues, members across the country have agreed plastic pollution will have a serious impact on our current and future generations. The group of outspoken young people have stated national and local leaders in government must act to halt the impact of climate change with young people’s voices at the centre of decision making.
Mental health has remained a priority repeatedly for young people across all nations with the issue reoccurring as a top priority on six occasions within UK Youth Parliament’s annual ballot since 2011. Research from the British Medical Journal revealed deterioration in mental health is clearest among families already struggling, reinforcing concerns from young leaders that mental health must be kept at the heart of the government’s approach to pandemic recovery.
UK Youth Parliament have also joined forced with other campaigners to reiterate the importance of providing free higher education in England. The youth-led pressure group, believe that university is a gateway to success in life and should be freely available to all. The campaign intends to call for reforms to access to universities to prevent young people suffering financial hardship and not reaching their full potential.
Each of the campaigns have come about following UK Youth Parliament’s annual ballot of young people across the UK. The ‘Make Your Mark’ ballot, which was coordinated by the British Youth Council and supported by UK Parliament, concluded young people felt access to higher education should remain free as a priority.
TRIGGER WARNING: Violence towards women, sexual harassment, sexual abuse
Two weeks ago we celebrated international women’s day, coming together to acknowledge and thank the women in our lives. The women who inspire us, support us, who we look up to, love, and cherish. We also reflected on the history of women’s rights and paid respects to those who lost their freedom and lives whilst advocating for gender equality. It was a bittersweet day for many.
Devastatingly, that same week we mourned the death of 33 year old Londoner Sarah Everard.
Sarah was a woman just trying to get home. She wore brightly coloured clothing, she called a friend to let her know she was on her way and she took a route consisting mainly of busy roads and well lit streets. Sarah did everything women are told to do in order to keep safe in the streets, but tragically, her life was taken. Sarah’s death has been upsetting for all but has particularly affected women and girls, who are acutely aware of the disproportionate dangers they face every single day. We know this because we, as young women, share in the fear, frustration and sadness that has been expressed in response to Sarah’s tragic death. Sarah’s death has also prompted us to remember other young women who have sadly lost their lives, including those who have, like Blessing Olusegun who’s case sadly still remains unsolved. Some of us have also shared or been reminded of our own experiences of gender-based abuse. We are aware that sadly, our experiences are not isolated.
Just this week, UN Women UK have reported that 97% of young women in the UK have experienced sexual harassment or assault; often in spaces where we are supposed to feel safe like the home, school or on our streets. The British Youth Council firmly believes that all young people should be protected from sexual harassment, and their feelings and experiences taken seriously. No person should have to feel threatened because of their gender.
To all women: young people, our female colleagues, family and friends, we want you to know that we hear you. Your experiences are valid and living in this continued state of fear is not okay. As a board, we have collectively agreed more needs to be done to stand up against injustices towards women and marginalised genders, of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
We have written to Liz Truss, Minister for Women and Equalities, to express our deep concerns about women’s safety and the need to ensure the voices of young women are at the heart of decision making. Current protections are not enough to keep us safe, and young women need to be at the forefront of shaping a safer future. Although we do not have all of the answers, we are coming together with a shared passion and determination to challenge the systems, practices and behaviors which allow these awful crimes against women to continue to be committed.
As young women, we understand it has been emotional for many to process the events of this last week and the outpouring of personal testimonies and reflections. Our personal and communal reflections continue and our thoughts are with all of you during this difficult time.
We hear you. We believe you. We stand with you.
This blog has been written collaboratively by six female members of the British Youth Council’s board of trustees.
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.
Coming to the end of my role as UK Young Ambassador for EU Youth Dialogue, I have begun to reflect on journey. EU Youth Dialogue allows young people to interact with policy makers at an European level. The 7th Cycle of EU Youth Dialogue had three main themes. These were based on three EU youth goals – 1) Quality Employment for All, 2) Quality Youth Work for All and 3) Opportunities for Rural Youth. As UK Young Ambassadors we designed a nation-wide consultation that engaged 530 young people.
As a unit, my team of UK Young Ambassadors were given a voice to represent UK youth on an international stage. This meant we learnt to become strong communicators. We used our national consultation to be informed of the views of young people in the UK. This enabled us to communicate their views when delivering presentations and when networking. Delivering a national consultation on opposing themes did present us with challenges. We found that young people struggled to complete such a long survey. This put more pressure to ensure that focus groups and other dialogue events were encapsulating the evidence we needed for the report. Fortunately, when it came to data evaluation, we started to see themes pop out.
One of the main results from our consultation was the challenges surrounding the Future of Work. Young people across the UK were concerned about accessing quality jobs, as they believed it was difficult to prepare for a labour market that is constantly reshaping.
One of the core concerns is the availability to high quality access to the Internet, which is eerily poignant in the rise of remote working due to Coronavirus. Young people believed that certain groups were inherently disadvantaged if they did not have access to good quality Internet. They identified issues with recruitment being exclusively online – as this means those without stable Internet access are unable to apply. This year has saw a huge digital transfer of both the job market and jobs themselves. Young people now need Internet access, not as a commodity, but an essential for employment.
Additionally, young people highlighted the barriers they faced living in rural areas. They expressed issues from a lack of amenities. These included poor public transport, poor access to health, education and leisure facilities and high-quality broadband. Young people worried that they had to move in order to access education or secure quality employment. However, they wished to remain in their current areas and support local businesses.
Another outcome from the consultation was the need for Quality Youth Work. In the UK, youth work is often seen as a voluntary role. Our findings recognised the need for youth work to be seen as a profession. The standard of youth work could be raised with investment in youth worker qualifications that recognise the profession. The aim is that official youth worker qualifications will create a more sustainable strategy for youth work across the UK.
Overall, this paints a picture of a myriad of challenges that UK young people face. However, the outcome of the consultation was not gloomy. While young people highlighted their difficulties, they also presented solutions. They even felt communities themselves could be an effective tool for change that would provide short term solutions that addressed and adapted to local needs.
As an out-going UK Young Ambassador, I have been lucky to secure a role with Future Leaders Network as the Co-Chair of the Y7 2021 Taskforce. I will be leading a team of young people to deliver the G7 Youth Summit in the UK next year. I hope to use my networks and connections to further promote solutions to the challenges raised in our consultation.
For other young people out there, I would say become a champion for your concerns. Feel empowered to become a catalyst for change in your area. Reach out to leaders in your community and tell them about the challenges in your area. Write to your MPs, MSPs, MLAs, MSs – inform them about your needs as a young person. Provide leaders with evidence (such as this report) or any that you have gathered. You can even organise your own EU Youth Goal workshops in schools, colleges or youth clubs. Young people should lead the way as change-makers, not only in their local community, but internationally too.
The Back Youth Alliance is a collaboration of senior leaders and youth representatives from some of the UK’s leading youth charities, working together to present a coherent voice to decision-makers with and for young people.
The youth sector gives critical support, providing a lifeline for many vulnerable young people, particularly those living in areas of deprivation. Yet at a time when young people most need this support, the youth sector is facing an unprecedented funding crisis.
We readily welcome the fact the Government has listened and announced a £16.5 million dedicated youth covid-19 support fund that will support youth organisations continuing to deliver through the winter months.
The Chancellor announced £100million to fund NCS and youth facilities in the Spending Review. This focus on investment in youth facilities is welcome at a time when youth service transformation and expansion is needed most. However there has been no mention of the £500 million Youth Investment Fund manifesto commitment which was promised over a year ago. Without confirmation of this funding, this means that delivering on the Government’s agenda of levelling up and providing transformational opportunities for young people is at risk and will be delayed for another year.
We are urgently seeking clarity around the status of the Youth Investment Fund, as for every year we delay in delivering the much needed revenue and capital funding for services, the more young people lose out, and the more society misses out on young people’s potential to help us build back better.
Youth Futures Foundation has announced a new partnership with the British Youth Council to put young people’s voices at the heart of all the not-for-profit’s activities. They are inviting charities and organisations working with young people who face barriers to employment to encourage them to apply.
Eleven young people will form the Future Voices Group, which will work with the staff team and Board of Directors to advise and feed into Youth Futures Foundation’s vision and strategy, the things it funds, its research, communications approach and partnerships.
The British Youth Council has been championing youth voice since its foundation over 70 years ago and will support members of the group. Youth Futures was established in 2019 with a remit to understand and share ‘what works’ to help young people who are most disadvantaged, have equitable access to quality jobs.
Alex Morawski, a Member of the Youth Futures Foundation’s Board of Non-Executive Directors and incoming Chair of the Future Voices Group said: ”The Future Voices Group not only gives young people a seat at the table, it invites them to lead the conversation on youth employment. This is an opportunity for young people to challenge the status quo and for their experiences to inform ambitious changes to remove the barriers to securing meaningful work which so many face.”
Sarah Staples, Chair of the British Youth Council, the charity helping to deliver the programme, said: “The global outbreak of coronavirus and its economic impacts mean unemployment will be a key concern of young people across the country.
“We’re really excited to be working with the Youth Futures Foundations to form the Future Voices Group. It’s really important that young people have an opportunity to influence the conversations surrounding youth unemployment. Young people want to be at the forefront of challenging the many barriers they face when trying to secure a fruitful career.”
Anyone interested in joining the Future Voices Group must be aged between 16 and 24 years, resident in England and have direct or indirect experience of facing barriers to gaining meaningful employment. Examples include being of ethnic minority heritage, a refugee or asylum seeker, having a special educational need, physical disability or long-term health condition or coming from a socio-economically deprived background.