Media spokespeople are available on request at various points throughout the campaign. To organise interviews please get in touch with the British Youth Council press office.
As she comes to the end of her term of office, outgoing Chair of the British Youth Council, Anna Rose Barker, shares her reflections and her commitment to youth voice in the UK.
It’s all too easy for the political agenda to overlook young people.
This means that the distribution of economic and political privilege leaves young people undervalued and without representative influence. However, it’s hugely important that our society hears and protects the opinions of young people. The experience of youth at any one point in time is not one that can ever be shared by older generations.
Every generation has their own experience of what it is to be young, but that is an experience only framed by the era and environment they were brought up. Our social, economic and political environment today is rich with opportunity with the potential for incredible change.
Youth voice matters! It matters in continuing to build coherent and fair societies. It matters to underrepresented opinions. Opinions which throughout history have been elevated by pro-active, idealistic and sometimes, justifiably angry young people. Young people matter now more than ever.
The last three years on the board and two years as Chair have been remarkable. We have achieved so much and we must not forget that. From appointing a new CEO; revising the entire governance structure of the organisation; building a new strategy and most importantly; we have fostered a positive, thoughtful and uncompromising culture that pushes the charity forward and holds it to account.
In concluding my tenure as Chair I think it’s valuable that we keep reminding ourselves why we’re involved with the British Youth Council and why youth voice matters.
To all young people, staff and supporters that will lead the British Youth Council for years to come, remember that the responsibility you have to our charity is multi-dimensional. It’s enormously important that the charity maintains the highest standard possible of fiduciary, legal and financial responsibility for future generations to benefit from our vision. But you also have another role. You will help set the pace of change across the country and you will represent our diverse, and very impressive membership base. Please don’t forget why you all got involved with the British Youth Council and why empowering youth voice and participation is so very crucial. You are the one’s to make this happen.
But before I go I want to make a promise to a charity that has shaped me so much:
I promise to always elevate the experiences of young people. I promise to ask and listen. I promise to hold dear the vision, mission and values of The British Youth Council.
The Electoral Reform Society has today released a report damning the 2018 Voter ID pilots as ‘a sledgehammer to crack a nut’. At this year’s local elections five areas trialled different forms of ID requirements as a measure to prevent voter fraud. However, as highlighted by the report, in a single day across the five councils twice as many people didn’t vote due to having incorrect ID as have been accused of personation, the type of fraud that ID prevents, in eight years across the whole of the UK.
The British Youth Council is among many voluntary and community sector organisations who have already raised concerns about the impact of Voter ID on the participation of marginalised communities across the UK. Evaluations have shown that those in lower socio-economic groups and younger voters were less likely to know about the ID requirements. The Windrush scandal this year has highlighted the difficulties that some legitimate voters could have in accessing identity documents. In the UK we do not have a universal and free form of photographic ID, meaning that there are financial barriers to providing photographic ID, and additional hoops to step through to gain a free locally accepted ID.
“Throughout history, the power of the vote and, equal access to voting, is something that so many have fought for – with young people being some of those who continue that battle to this day,” says British Youth Council Trustee Larissa Kennedy. “It seems oxymoronic that, in the year that we are celebrating the centenary of the extension of the franchise to some women, and 90 years since the vote was extended to all women and men over 21, that we are simultaneously putting barriers in the way of people accessing their vote.”
At the recent full Council meeting of the British Youth Council, a motion opposing the introduction of voter ID was passed by the membership, calling on the Government to reconsider the current approach and to look at different solutions that are proportionate to the actual risk posed by voter fraud, and calling on the Electoral Commission to examine the impact of voter ID trials on marginalised communities, including young people, to ensure that the impacts are not disproportionately felt by those communities.
“We heard from young people in one of the pilot areas that they were left feeling that only the smart and well educated would be voting’,” said Anna Rose Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council. “Democratic participation is a crucial responsibility of every member of society and attempts to deal with voter fraud must not disproportionately harm access to democracy. In the 2017 UK Parliamentary elections, 13 seats were won with a majority less than the number of people denied a vote in Bromley. The introduction of voter ID has a huge potential to swing the outcome of elections, reducing the voice of those already marginalised from the democratic process and creating a greater sense of disillusionment with the democratic process.”
The British Youth Council believes that the right to vote of young people and other marginalised communities must be protected. We will continue to stand alongside the Electoral Reform Society and other voluntary and community sector organisations to call for the voices of the marginalised to be heard and to remove barriers to democratic participation.
UK Youth Parliament’s Make Your Mark campaign received cross-party support from Members of Parliament this week. The ballot invites young people aged 11-18 to take part in shortlisting what is debated in the House of Commons chamber by Members of Youth Parliament. Young people can cast their vote in a multitude of ways including online.
The issues on the ballot, which includes ending period poverty and tackling homelessness, reflect the pledges made at local elections by Members of Youth Parliament across the UK. The nationwide campaign is supported by Local Authorities, schools and volunteers who are giving up their time to make sure young people have their say. Throughout the Autumn Members of Youth Parliament and volunteers across the country, invite young people in schools and youth clubs to take this opportunity to inform and influence Government and the decision makers in their communities.
Make Your Mark, which is supported by the British Youth Council, has reached hundreds of thousands of young people each year. Last year alone, almost a million young people took part in the annual ballot.
The Commons debate will take place on Friday 9th November, and will be chaired by The Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, who recently pledged his support for the campaign stating he looked forward to “welcoming the Members of the Youth Parliament and presiding over some truly inspiring debates”. Following the debates, Members of Youth Parliament will then choose their priorities for 2019.
You can find pictures of the Members of Parliament who pledged their support on Facebook.
British Youth Council Trustee, Larissa Kennedy, comments on the Voter ID pilots undertaken at the Local Elections in 2018.
Throughout history, the power of the vote and, equal access to voting, is something that so many have fought for – with young people being some of those who continue that battle to this day. It seems oxymoronic that, in the year that we are celebrating the centenary of the extension of the franchise to some women, and 90 years since the vote was extended to all women and men over 21, that we are simultaneously putting barriers in the way of people accessing their vote.
The government’s Democratic Engagement Plan should be doing what it says on the tin – engaging people in democracy. And it’s sub heading – ‘Building A Democracy That Works For Everyone’ – is absolutely a principle that we can get behind. But we’re concerned that current actions could actually do the opposite. In May this year there were pilots that require people to produce ID at the polling stations before they could vote in the local elections. In Swindon and Watford, you had to take your poll card to the polling station; in Bromley and Gosport, you needed one piece of photo identification, like a passport or driving licence, or two pieces of non photo ID, such as a recent bank or credit card statement and utility bill of which one must contain your address; and in Woking, you needed photo identification, like a passport, driving licence or senior bus pass.
This is a move to prevent electoral fraud but this doesn’t seem up to add up. An evaluation of this pilot by the Electoral Commission has shown that whilst only three allegations of this type of voter fraud have been made in non-pilot areas, at the same election around 350 people turned up to vote, were turned away for not having the correct ID and did not come back. In Watford there was a correlation between the proportion of a ward’s population that is Asian/British Asian and the number of people who turned up without identification and did not return. And under 35s and people in the lowest social classes (C2DE) were amongst the least likely to have received the messages about the requirement to have ID to be able to vote.
Why the British Youth Council is speaking out on this?
Numerous studies from the US prove that strict rules about voter ID make it harder for marginalised groups to engage with politics – this could further disenfranchise not only young people, but also the elderly, disabled people, trans and gender non-conforming people, people of colour, and the homeless.
The British Youth Council has always supported young voters. In the past, we’ve run voter registration campaigns because we’re passionate about ensuring that young voters can access their vote. Now, we’re standing in solidarity with the Electoral Reform Society, researchers, and numerous organisations representing marginalised voting communities, including Race On The Agenda, The LGBT Foundation, Liberty and Age UK just to name a few, calling on the government to reconsider this approach.
In all elections and referenda, all eligible people should be able to exercise their democratic right. It is crucial for that we stand up for this right, and the British Youth Council – as always – will continue to fight for young’s voices people to be heard.
8am Monday morning. We’ve already been at the QEII for an hour. Delegates are beginning to arrive, and the buzz of excitement and anticipation is rife in the air. That energy fades and is replaced with a crowd of early 20-somethings holding their breath as His Royal Highness Prince Harry is escorted in. But, I’m getting ahead of myself slightly. Rewind to another Monday morning, 7 months earlier; it’s October and another group of 20-somethings are nervously gathered in Marlborough House beginning the talks that will lead us to the Commonwealth Youth Forum 2018.
I’m Luke Oliver, I’m 23 and a member of the CYF International Taskforce. Back in October of 2017, I gathered with others to help plan the forum that was then delivered to around 300 delegates from across the Commonwealth. The International Taskforce was made up of about 15 young people because if you want to combat youth issues you can only do that by having youth involved. We were tasked with focusing the forum on four key areas designed to help improve the Commonwealth’s ‘Common Future’; these areas were sustainability, prosperity, fairness & security.
The work began by dividing the Taskforce into three main sub-teams: programmes, policy, and communications. The programmes team began by taking the four pillars as guidelines and then honing them to create areas of interest that affect the youth of the Commonwealth. This meant thinking about cyber security for an ever-growing world; equality for all minorities and acknowledging the richness that those minorities can bring to society, to climate change and the impact that is going to have on us as we inherit the Commonwealth but also the generations of Commonwealth youth to come; cyber security for an ever-growing world. Now, these weren’t thoughts that came from one meeting in October, they were ruminated over many months in the lead up to CHOGM in collaboration with the policy team who listened to the conceptual ideas and then wrote the communique that delegates got to work with, and create action plans for, during the forum. Meanwhile, the communications team aided with campaigns to raise the awareness and engagement of youth in the Commonwealth in the lead up to April.
It’s now April, CHOGM and the Commonwealth Youth Forum are here. All the delegates have arrived and now the work really begins. The forum has been split into two major strands of events: plenaries and break-out sessions. There were four plenaries, one for each pillar, containing young people who are experts in their fields discussing the work they’re doing in their communities across the Commonwealth in the hopes to share success stories, not so successful stories and best practice with the delegates and hopefully impart knowledge on how delegates can better improve their own communities. The second strand was the break-out sessions. This is where the 300 delegates were given the chance to be at the heart of affecting change and policy for the tens of millions of youth across the Commonwealth who couldn’t attend. This meant creating action plans for the policies which had been drafted in the communique. If the policy was ‘more funding for youth entrepreneurships’ the actions plans may have discussed ways in which young people can access that funding. Both strands played a vital role in the forum, the plenaries were the calls to action and provided examples of the differences this year’s wave of delegates could make; the break-out sessions then created a space for the delegates to be instrumental in the way policy jargon can become physical change in communities across the world.
The three days of the forum became a productive blur with very little let up. On the Wednesday night, the action plans were added to the communique and then forwarded to all of the Heads of Governments from across the Commonwealth to discuss in the meetings at Windsor Castle. The youth agenda is usually something that is tokenistic and discussed in brief by middle-aged senior ministers. So, to be able to say that youth have been at the heart of this year’s CHOGM and the Commonwealth’s future is extremely special and something that I and all involved are tremendously proud to have achieved.
But it’s up to you! If you attended you have tools now to go back and implement change. If you didn’t attend there’s heaps online you can access to see exactly what happened behind the four walls of the QEII or contact people who did go, pick their brains about how they can lead you to make a difference too.
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.
Over 100 Members of Parliament from across the UK pledged their personal support to promote awareness of the UK Youth Parliament’s Make Your Mark ballot. The nationwide vote has been ‘open’ to anyone aged 11-18 years old since Friday 10th August 2017. Young people taking part shortlisting what is debated in the House of Commons chamber by Members of Youth Parliament on Friday 10th November 2017. The vote closes on Friday 6th October 2017 and you can find out more and cast your vote online here: www.ukyouthparliament.org.uk/makeyourmark
Support included Minister for Sports and Civil Society, with responsibility for youth policy, Tracey Crouch MP and British Youth Council Honorary President, Wes Streeting MP. You can find pictures of the Members of Parliament who pledged their support on Facebook.
The ballot will contain 10 policies voted for by Members of Youth Parliament including mental health and lowering the voting age, which reflect their election pledges in local elections across the UK earlier in the year. The campaign will see Members of Youth Parliament and volunteers across the country, invite young people in schools and youth clubs to take this opportunity to have their say and to inform and influence Government and decision makers in their communities.
The Commons debate will take place on 10th November, and will be chaired by The Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, who recently spoke at the UK Youth Parliament’s Annual Sitting in York. Young members will then walk through the division lobbies to vote on what should be a become their priority campaigns for 2016/17. In recent years they prioritised “Mental Health” and “Tackling Racism and Religious Discrimination”.
Young people can take part in the consultation by visiting: www.ukyouthparliament.org.uk/makeyourmark
The 12th August 2017 is International Youth Day and the theme this year is building peace. In the spirit of working together Rowan Munson, alumni member of the NHS Youth Forum and Kath Evans, Experience of Care Lead for Maternity, Children and Young People at NHS England co-author this blog.
“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding”
Rowan draws on Einstein’s wisdom; he noted how at the core of peace is a full understanding of people and their concerns. Rowan reflects that ‘throughout the NHS and Government there is an increasing force behind understanding patients, their needs as whole people, not just conditions, prescriptions and tick-box outcomes but physically, mentally and socially. Everyone can play a part in building a peace in healthcare, by working to create a mutually beneficial equilibrium between patients, providers and commissioners; by simply opening your ears, hearts and minds to the Future NHS.’
‘Anyone who has the privilege of working with young people in the NHS knows that they are ‘agents of change’ and many practitioners are surprised that a relatively small investment in youth facilitation, train tickets and pizza can result in transformational improvements to services. Perhaps what is most surprising is the impact on young people and practitioners, both flourish in confidence with these opportunities to work together’ shares Kath.
Speaking to young people enables us to hear ‘from the horse’s mouth’ (and often very directly!) how services could be improved, how their care outcomes could be enhanced or how efficiencies could be made.
Today is a good time to reflect and consider how we continue to grow the involvement of young people across the NHS, and multiply the benefits it brings.
The Power of Voice
The voice of young people, not only in their care but in the running of services continues to grow and mature. Many organisations including GP practices, local HealthWatch teams and Trusts, now have their own ‘Youth Forums’ which influence boards and work with services to drive improvements in care.
The NHS Youth Forum supported by the British Youth Council and NHS England has over the last four years influenced, supported and effectively challenged the Department of Health, Public Health England and NHS England to ensure that the voices of young people are heard, valued and actioned across the NHS. They have run a range of projects covering healthcare rights, mental health and communication between health professionals and young people. The NHS Youth Forum also blogged for National Voices recently about opportunities to better engage young people in Health and Social Care.
Every-day Changemakers, through volunteering
Many NHS organisations are now embracing ‘Youth Social Action’ and are increasing volunteering opportunities for young people so that they are part of the intergenerational fabric of NHS organisations, young people are not purely ‘receivers of care’ but contributors to the NHS too. This guide from Volunteering Matters assists organisations to open their doors to young people and the ‘iWill’ campaign which Ruth May, Director of Nursing at NHS Improvement recently wrote to NHS Trusts about, champions the importance of increasing youth social action opportunities.
Employment Embeds Skills & Innovation
Rowan suggests that the best way to “Talk to tomorrow, today” is to employ young people, and embed them within the team; this continues to grow thanks to the leadership of Health Education England with their ‘Get in, get on, go further’ and NHS Employers. There’s great practice happening across the country to enhance social mobility.
Excitingly, Kath shares that the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) is leading a programme called ‘I can, We can’ which is sharing how the NHS can get better at employing young adults with learning difficulties and physical disabilities, supported by the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi) and Preparing for Adulthood. The NHS can fulfil a societal role by role modelling employment opportunities for young people with specific needs by providing supported internships.
So on International Youth Day, can we challenge ourselves, our teams and our organisations….
- How can we hear and action the voices of young people in their care and at every level of the NHS?
- How can we open up volunteering opportunities to enable young people to become every-day change makers in the NHS?
- How can we create employment opportunities for young people, especially those with learning and physical disabilities, to ensure that we continue to create a diverse workforce that is representative of the communities we serve?
Young people can be ‘agents for change’, the architects of tomorrow’s world, they just need the tools to do it, to be empowered and that’s up to people like us, shares Kath, those who work in the system must keep being courageous and keep thinking and doing differently by engaging with young people to enhance our understanding.
The final word goes to Rowan …
“Children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.”
Rowan Munson tweets as @rowanmunson
Rowan is an alumni member of the NHS Youth Forum. He is committed to making sure young people are heard in healthcare issues, he has represented young people, locally at the district and county councils, Patient Participation Groups & his Clinical Commissioning Group, including founding Surrey’s youth representation platform. He says his interest in health issues started after he was ping-ponged through several departments, in several organisations.
Kath Evans tweets as @kathevans2
Kath is a registered general and children’s nurse and her career has included clinical, educational, managerial and service improvement roles. She is Experience of Care Lead for Maternity, Infants, Children and Young People at NHS England where she is committed to ensuring the voices of children, young people, families/carers and maternity service users are heard in their care and in the design, delivery and commissioning of services.
UK Youth Parliament is launching, ‘Make Your Mark’, the UK’s largest survey of young people’s views. For the seventh time in history, young people aged 11-18 are being invited to take part in the ballot to shortlist what is debated in the House of Commons by Members of Youth Parliament later this year.
The annual ballot, which launches on International Youth Day, will contain 10 policies voted for by Members of Youth Parliament including reforming the curriculum, further support for young carers, improving mental health services and protecting school budgets.
The campaign will see Members and volunteers across the country, invite young people in schools and youth clubs to take this opportunity to have their say and to inform and influence Government and decision makers in their communities.
Joshua Gray, a member of the Procedures Group, which coordinates the UK Youth Parliament said: “It’s so exciting that once again young people across the country are being given the chance to make it clear what they think is a priority to them in the biggest youth consultation in the country. When Members of Youth Parliament debate in the House of Commons, it’s vital that they address the issues that young people care about, with a mandate given to them directly from the Make Your Mark ballot.”
Young people are passionate about their own world and it’s imperative that decision makers sit up and listen to young people’s priorities, and this ballot gives all young people an essential outlet for their views.”
Following the campaign, priority issues will be brought to the attention of Government Ministers including Tracey Crouch MP, Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Sport and Civil Society, with responsibility for youth who is due to attend the UK Youth Parliament’s House of Commons Sitting and reply on behalf of the Government.
The Commons debate which is taking place on 10th November 2017 will be chaired by John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, who recently spoke at the UK Youth Parliament’s Annual Sitting in Liverpool. After the debates, Members of Youth Parliament will walk through the division lobbies to vote on what should be a become their priority campaigns for 2018. In recent years, mental health, racism and religious discrimination and a lower voting age have been prioritised.
Young people can take part in the consultation by visiting: www.ukyouthparliament.org.uk/makeyourmark
On Friday 28th July 2017, members of the UK Youth Parliament gathered together at Liverpool Hope University for its Annual Sitting 2017. The event was a major success with over 250 Members of Youth Parliaments (MYPs) attending the programme. The Annual Sitting is a weekend that every MYP looks forward to, and they were not let down!
The opening ceremony kicked off festivities with MYPs being informed about what their weekend was to entail, they had an emotional speech from representatives of the Holocaust Educational Trust and they were even treated to the now infamous Procedure Group dance! With positivity and passion, MYPs experienced their first regional and national meeting of the weekend, with their Procedure Group leading the session, ably supported by their Youth Democracy Co-ordinator. This was an effective session as Members of Youth Parliament developed a greater understanding of the Big Vote and their role in shaping the UK Youth Parliament manifesto. With the first Big Vote session less than 12 hours away, MYPs were set an overnight task that aimed to develop their public speaking skills; topics for MYPs to speak on ranged from Votes at 16 to their own policy motions for the next day to their own topic, just with the proviso that they delivered their speech with passion.
Refreshed for the next day, MYPs woke up to a speech from the Right Honourable John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, who spoke eloquently on the issues of modernising parliament, the importance of having a youth voice and why he is personally so passionate about the Youth Parliament. It was an honour and a privilege for the Procedure Group team to host Mr Bercow’s visit to the Annual Sitting and I’m sure that all MYPs would agree that his words of wisdom will stay with us for a long time.
The afternoon Q&A Session was also a huge success. The panel spoke about a range of issues including Brexit and Votes at 16. The panel was chaired by former member of Parliament Julie Hilling. We thank all of the panellists for their time.
The Big Vote sessions were the major highlight of the weekend, with MYPs from across the country coming together in order to discuss issues facing young people. The quality of debate was incredible on both days with key points being made on each motion. MYPs passed 16 motions over the weekend, which means that they are now in the UK Youth Parliament manifesto. Members of Youth Parliament will now use the manifesto to prioritise their top ten issues; the top 10 most voted for issues will feature on this year’s Make Your Mark ballot, which is being launched nationwide on August 12th. The Big Vote is such a key part of the UK Youth Parliament calendar and MYPs should be proud of their debates this year!
Ultimately, Annual Sitting 2017 was a huge success. Members of Youth Parliament had a brilliant weekend and on behalf of the Procedures Group, we had a great time leading your workshops and your other sessions (especially delivering the Procedure Group dance!!). #UKYP17 was brilliant, let’s keep up the passion and deliver to our constituents!