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 welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to increase funding for youth services, following repeated calls for change from young people across the country.
Sajid Javid, Chancellor of the Exchequer, confirmed Government plans to introduce a new Youth Investment Fund. The new funding is set to help build new youth centres, refurbish exciting youth facilitates and provide mobile facilities for harder to reach areas. The Chancellor confirmed the £500 million funds would also support the provision and coordination of high-quality services for young people and an investment in the youth workforce.
Commenting on the new fund, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council said: “We’re delighted to learn of the new confirmed funding which is being set aside for youth services. Young people should have access to youth services, regardless of where they live. We’ve been asking the Government to recognise the value of youth services for almost a decade because so many young people rely on these services.
“We know that young people face a multitude of issues. Youth services can play an integral role in creating a fairer, safer and stronger environment for young people.”
The British Youth Council have been campaigning for increased funding for youth provisions since 2010 when the Government cuts resulted in youth services across the UK suffering. The youth-led charity believes youth services are an important addition to young people’s formal education. Young people have persistently reminded the Government that youth services provide a supportive place for young people to become a force for good in society.
The British Youth Council have been working with other leading youth organisations to highlight the importance of offering young people opportunities in their communities.
On Saturday 21st September 2019, I had the privilege of travelling to the United Nations Climate Action Summit as the UK’s nominated youth delegate. This summit, occurring immediately before the United Nations General Assembly that began on Monday 23rd September, was intended to offer a platform to young people to meaningfully engage with decision-makers to create a greener and sustainable future. As the UK’s youth delegate, my role at the summit was to share the views of young people from the UK with senior officials, advocating for positive climate action on your behalf.
The fact that I departed for the summit on Friday 20th September was significant for two reasons. Firstly, and most obviously, this was the day when over four million (yes, you heard that right – four million!) incredible people from across the globe took to the streets in protest, demanding urgent action in order to save our planet. Secondly, this was the day that the British Youth Council’s Youth Policy Group submitted its review on government policy in the areas of waste and recycling, climate change and youth engagement to the government departments responsible for protecting the planet. In this review, we highlighted young people’s environmental priorities and concerns while also recommending methods that the government could explore to engage more effectively with young people. It was the sentiments echoed in this report, and by young people on the streets, that I carried into the summit with me.
So now onto the summit itself! It was simply incredible. 1,200+ young people from over 120 countries all united by one purpose – climate action. At the summit, I attended workshops on all manner of issues, learning about the link between climate change and young people’s human rights, about the steps we are taking to transition to the use of clean energy and about how it is those who pollute least who are impacted most. I’ve summarised my key takeaways below that I would like to share with you all, to give you a flavour of some of the recurring themes that came from the discussions I was involved in:
Change is happening!
During the summit, I heard how major employers are becoming more environmentally conscious because this makes their businesses more attractive to prospective employees, how major polluters such as the shipping industry are committing to becoming net-zero in terms of their emissions and how the views of young people are being considered in policy-making decisions at the highest levels. It’s clear to me that the tireless campaigning and passion of young people is beginning to have an impact and create meaningful change. This makes it more important than ever that we continue to campaign, striving to increase the pace of change and change the attitudes of everyday people.
Individual actions matter – don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise!
Often, we fall into the trap of believing that our individual actions are insignificant, believing we do not have the individual power to create change. Being surrounded by young people from right across the globe and hearing about the impact they have had in their local communities really highlighted to me how one person can make an impact. You never know who is watching, so we must continue to always lead by example and inspire others to change their ways. The most powerful demonstration of this can be seen through the story of a young woman who requires no introduction. In August 2018, Greta protested outside the Swedish parliament alone. A year later and 4million people joined her. You’re never too small to make an impact on the world. As climate activist and avid explorer, Robert Swan pointed out: ‘the greatest threat to our planet is the belief that somebody else will save it.’ So, don’t wait for other people to lead, be advocates for change within your own lives – then you will automatically inspire others!
Young people are not only being heard but are leading the way – we need to keep at it!
The event, held at the UN HQ, began with a panel of leading youth activists from around the world (featuring the one, the only Greta Thunberg) who were discussing their priorities for the planet. Interestingly, the UN Secretary-General (the most senior official within the UN) joined the panel as a ‘keynote listener’, sending a powerful signal that the UN was open not only to working with young people but to actually allowing them to drive conversations. This theme continued throughout the day, with young innovators pitching technological solutions to the climate crisis, such as the storage of data inside plants (how cool!) to panels of industry experts. The fact that the UN is ready to work alongside young people to drive change is a positive sign and is something that should give us hope. We are leaders in this fight, and we have to keep leading!
So, they’re my takeaways. But, how can you get involved? Remember that small individual actions can have a global impact. Your actions matter as much as anybody else’s does. Why not ditch the car and walk when you can? Could you commit to having a day each week free of single-use plastics? Try shopping for second-hand clothes to reduce the amount of ‘fast fashion’ items to the landfill? Or how about lobbying the decision-makers of our country, and of our world, to encourage them to create pioneering climate policies? We can all have an impact, and each and every one of us has a part to play. Let’s go save the world! (literally!)
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
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.
The children’s charity, NSPCC, has released data showing that children and young people are facing a rising tide of racial hate crimes. Reported incidences of racially motivated abuse and bullying have increased by one fifth since 2015-16.
“I’m heartbroken to hear of the racism young BME students are facing in schools across the country and, regrettably, not shocked because their stories are very similar to my own”, says Larissa Kennedy, Trustee of the British Youth Council. In 2015 young people across the UK voted for racism and religious discrimination as one of the top five issues facing young people in the annual Make Your Mark ballot. This prompted the Youth Select Committee to undertake an inquiry into the issue in 2016.
“The Youth Select Committee received evidence from a range of young people sharing their experience of racial and religious discrimination, both in their communities and in schools,” says Kennedy. The Committee made a range of recommendations regarding actions that could be taken to better support schools and teachers to educate around this issue and to tackle racism when it does happen.
In the joint ministerial foreword to the government response, representatives of the Home Office, Department for Education and Department for Communities and Local Government stated “We are clear that no child should live in fear of racism or bullying. To this end, we have sent a clear message to schools that they need to challenge and tackle all forms of bullying and discrimination, including racism and religious discrimination.” In this response the government made no new commitments to tackle the issues raised by young people.
Whilst the sentiments of the Ministers were right, the British Youth Council believe it is time for action. Between attainment gaps, erasure from the national curriculum, disproportionate expulsions, discriminatory dress codes and these reports of racist incidents in schools, education is a right that young BME students are not currently being fully afforded. We must not only prevent and tackle racist incidents but institutional racism in the education system. The British Youth Council renews it’s call on the government to listen to young people and to work with us to actively eradicate racism in schools.
The British Youth Council have expressed their dissatisfaction with the Government’s continued opposition to a lower voting age. The unplanned EU Elections which take place on Thursday 23rd May will see 1.5 million young people aged 16 and 17 denied the opportunity to vote.
Over the past 16 years, the youth-led charity has been campaigning for the enfranchisement of 16 and 17 year olds. Research compiled by the Votes at 16 Coalition indicates unanimous cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament where they have introduced votes at 16 in Scottish Parliamentary elections and Local Council elections, increasing support across the green benches at Westminster and significant support in the Wales where the Welsh Assembly are due to introduce a lower voting age in 2021.
‘Unequal access to democracy’
16 and 17 year olds in Scotland had the chance to vote in the Scottish Referendum, continue to vote in the Scottish Parliamentary elections and Scottish Local Council elections and we are due to lower the voting age in the Welsh local elections in the near future. This continues to create unequal access to democracy across the UK.
Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “It is simply unbelievable that we continue to deny 16 and 17 year olds the opportunity to vote in some elections. How can the Government justify this unequal situation?”
Earlier this year the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Votes at 16 released a campaign report.