UK Youth Parliament have launched their new ambitious vision for a better and more equal society. The independent group of advocates launched their new manifesto following a national conference which was held online for the first time in history.
The new manifesto highlights some of the biggest issues facing young people in the UK including some long-standing issues like reforming the curriculum to prepare students for life and other issues that have been prominent in the media such as combating discrimination and ending child poverty.
Alannah White, a member of the UK Youth Parliament’s Steering Group said “Members of Youth Parliament have worked together to produce a robust view of the kind of society young people wish to live in. Young people are very passionate about the change they wish to see and we’re very aware of the need to address some of the issues we face with urgency.
“We will work to lobby decision makers and others to achieve our ambitious vision for the country and the world.”
Members of Youth Parliament from across the UK came to together to debate new policies and campaigns at their Annual Conference. There are no political parties or adversarial opposition, but everyone has an independent vote and the emphasis is on persuasion, consensus and researched arguments.
The manifesto has been published during the UK Youth Parliament’s Make Your Mark campaign which will give young people across the UK the opportunity to tell decision makers which issues they feel are the biggest facing young people. The results of the campaign will inform the UK Youth Parliament next campaigns. This year Members of Youth Parliament have been campaigning to address knife crime and to combat the climate emergency.
Young people across the UK can now take part in the annual Make Your Mark ballot, the largest UK youth consultation of its kind. The month-long campaign, which launches as part of UK Parliament Week, will give young people the opportunity to declare the most important issues facing the country.
Make Your Mark gives young people aged 11-18 the chance to select one issue affecting individual nations or the UK and one issue affecting their local communities. For the first time since the campaigns inception, voting will only take place online due to the ongoing outbreak of Coronavirus. The ballot includes issues such as climate change, tackling child poverty, mental health and hate crime.
Speaking on behalf of the UK Youth Parliament, Tessy Idemudia, said: “This is an opportunity for thousands of young people across the country to declare their priorities.
“Decision makers in every corner of the country will have an opportunity to not only listen to the concerns of young people but to act and make a difference. Young people are passionate about the issues that affect them, their families, and their communities. We want this year’s campaign to be a new catalyst for the changes we wish to see in the world.”
Minister for Civil Society, Baroness Barran said: “It’s more important than ever that we look out for our young people and in these challenging times, we want to make it easier for them to get their voices heard.
“The Make Your Mark ballot is a great way for young people to contribute their views on the big issues of the day, helping government to better reflect these in our decision making.”
This year’s nationwide campaign, which has taken place since 2011, is supported by the British Youth Council, UK Parliament and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The campaign is expected to reach thousands of young people with Members of Youth Parliament and volunteers across the country, inviting young people to take this opportunity to influence the government and decision makers in their communities. The results of the campaign will be brought to the attention of UK Government Ministers including Minister for Civil Society, Baroness Barran MBE, who is responsible for youth policy.
The British Youth Council is calling on decision makers to bring an end to anti-Black police brutality in the UK, in an effort to address the longstanding problems of racism, injustice and police violence. The impassioned plea was announced following the British Youth Council’s Annual Council Meeting, where members voted to actively support the movement for Black lives among many other important issues facing young people across the nation.
The youth-led charity, demands the UK government, Members of Parliament and other elected representatives address the solutions brought forward by grassroots campaigners and young people speaking out for an approach which addresses the root causes of the issues facing Black communities. The renewed and refined calls from the official national youth council come following a recent survey showing four out of five black Britons felt there was racial bias in UK policing.
Larissa Kennedy, Trustee of the British Youth Council said: “Anti-Black police brutality must come to an end in the UK but this can’t happen without a complete overhaul of the way we deliver public safety or without addressing the multitude of issues facing Black communities right across the country. We must recognise that more officers, arms, jails and prisons are not a solution to longstanding problems of racism, injustice and police violence.
“Decision makers must take steps to address the issues we face if they truly believe Black Lives Matter.”
Earlier in the summer, the British Youth Council expressed its discomfort and dismay at the murder of African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis, calling on the UK Government to directly call out the abhorrent murder of another black person in the United States. It also stated the government must take steps to address deep-rooted racism in the UK.
More information about the new policies ratified by its members at the British Youth Council’s Annual Council Meeting will be available in the coming weeks.
Recently, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport and the British Youth Council launched Involved. Involved is a social media tool on Instagram that allows young people to become a part of the decision-making process. I have been lucky enough to witness the Involved’s journey from an idea to a fully functional tool for young people across the country. Over this time, I have been able to become more confident in Involved’s necessity. For as long as our democratic system has existed, the prevailing view has always been that young people should be seen and not heard.
However, our society relies on young people to be responsible for their education, their careers, and their personal development, without the right to financial support or a direct way of providing feedback on the government decisions that impact them. The past ten years have seen a comprehensive transformation in this regard. There is the UK Youth Parliament where all devolved administrations have a Youth Voice representative body. The recent allocation of funding shows that structured youth investment succeeds in the long term. What we continue to see now is the dialogue surrounding young people increasing. And why shouldn’t it?
During my apprenticeship, I paid tax like any other employee. I believed that failing my GCSEs would prevent any hope of further education. And so, I was responsible for my entire future at the age of 16. And now we see young people taking responsibility for more than just their futures. Young people are moving. They are marching and using their few rights and platforms to spread a message.
From climate change to racial injustice, young people, who I am proud to say I share a generation with, care about much more than just their future. They care about the future of humanity. Yes, we have more to learn, and of course, we will make mistakes along the way. Look at the actions of previous generations and you will see; we are just another stepping-stone in the development of humanity.
Now for Involved, another stepping-stone allowing young people to have a direct link to the decision makers. If there is a disconnection between young people and decision makers, then the process of decision making is broken. For the same reason a marketing consultant is consulted on marketing, young people should be consulted on policies aimed at them. I am grateful we now have this belief established in some government departments. And those departments want to know more to do more, and that is why the young people we see marching, protesting and demanding the government to listen, can now be listened to.
It is just the beginning of Involved as a platform for young people to be heard, and there are certainly more steps to be taken for the Government to listen to young people. However, if we take this as the olive branch it is, we can keep moving. We can build a more open society that is not afraid to have the frank discussions it needs to progress. I will not forget the journey that was developing Involved, but I know that the best is yet to come.
The British Youth Council welcomes the Chancellor’s latest announcement in Parliament confirming the government’s £2bn “kick start” scheme. Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced the government’s plan to launch the new fund with the intention of creating more jobs for young people by subsiding wages for up-to six months.
Research from the Resolution Foundation claims young people have been more likely to lose work since the outbreak of Coronavirus. One-third of 18-24 year old employees have lost jobs or been furloughed, compared to one-in-six prime-age adults. Similarly, 35 per cent of non-full-time student 18-24-year-old employees are earning less than they did prior to the outbreak.
Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council said: “Young people have been significantly affected by the impact of Coronavirus, with many losing their jobs, some earning much less and others being put on furlough.
“This is a welcome move from the government to get young people working, and the Chancellor must go further if we are to address the significant impact Coronavirus is having on young people.”
The National Youth Council, also welcomes the Chancellor’s commitment to encourage businesses to hire more young apprentices, with a new payment of £2,000. The British Youth Council believes this will allow young people the opportunity to learn about working life and the working environment and to gain experience in particular jobs. However, the government will need to do more if it is to truly to support the prosperity of young people. To fully support young people, the government should compel businesses to comply with the living wage as set-out by the Living Wage Foundation. All work must at the very least provide a route out of poverty and this cannot be done when young people are significantly underpaid.
The British Youth Council were reassured to see measures announced that would encourage business to provide work experience to trainees but urged the government to ensure the recovery from the crisis isn’t placed on the shoulders of young people. Unless young people are also paid a living wage for the work that they are doing as a part of this programme, this may become an attempt to take the work of young people and exploit it for the benefit of everyone else. The government must ensure young people will see the benefit of the £1,000 investment, but it must all assure young people that these opportunities are meaningful and inclusive.
The youth-led charity has been highlighting the impact Coronavirus has had on young people living across the UK. Speaking on behalf of its members, the charity asserts that young people must continue to have a voice within this crisis so multitude of issues they’re facing can be addressed.
If I’m being honest, I had no idea what I was truly signing up for when I ran to be Chair of the British Youth Council just over two years ago. I was very clear that I wanted to do my bit in steering this important Charity forwards, and having already served a year as an ordinary trustee I was keen to take on more responsibility and be more involved. I’m a pretty organised and ambitious person, and I like doing my bit to build up the voices of others around me too. I was very prepared to be the voice that encourages all within the British Youth Council to reach that little bit higher, push ourselves that small bit further, and achieve something people thought we couldn’t. I won’t use this blog as an opportunity to try and predict what will come into the path of the next Chair (I got no more heads up than anyone else about the global pandemic!) but I’ll try and lay out some of the key principles and values that I humbly believe will ensure my successor succeeds.
This is perhaps one of the most varied roles I’ve ever been in – some weeks are very minimal whereas others defined by several key moments and decisions happening constantly one after the other. There’s a significant level of responsibility – you’re the public face of a national charity and one of the youngest elected National figures with that level of mandate – but there’s huge room for learning too. Your fellow trustees will almost certainly be the people who teach you the most about what it means to be a leader, and I truly believe leading by example is key – speaking out on behalf of the British Youth Council and young people when their voices aren’t included or their opinions not valued is a far too regular occurrence, but it’s a privilege to be able to speak out and important to do so.
You could be sat with a senior Government minister lobbying for more funding for a critical youth service on one day, then visiting one of the smallest youth groups in the country for a committee meeting the next. If you’re someone who would see both these events as important as each other – you could be a great chair. Some days will be spent working with our phenomenal staff team on the nitty-gritty details of how to make a vital new youth-led project or youth forum work, and that same week you might have to present to a room of other charity chairs about what makes our board different (and often, better). Being a team player and an ambassador are both vital, and as Chair, you get to learn how to be better at both throughout your tenure. You need to want to invest time into the trustee board – making sure meetings are effective decision-making spaces, ensuring everyone gets equal opportunity to be heard and thinking long term strategically about what the board needs to be doing.
The trustees are your main players – collectively you’re responsible for the British Youth Council’s strategy, finances, long term plan, and risk management – you need to be someone who can handle conversations with many opinions and steer people towards compromise and resolution. The staff team are brilliant and vital; you need to be happy to do your bit and makes events and programs a success, acknowledge when decisions are tough, and be prepared to be the person who makes the tough decisions.
Being Chair is brilliant, challenging, rewarding and educational all in one go. It’s intense, yes, but humbling too. You get two years to not only see the best of the best of what young people can achieve collectively and need to be the main person to make sure everything is working behind the scenes so that the British Youth Council can enable them too.
I’m fully prepared to admit that I did not expect to be planning my handover during a Global Pandemic and that the world we operate in now is a very different, and often quite a scary world, compared to one or two years ago. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the unwavering ability of our young activists, staff, member organisations and trustees to ensure that BYC is a vehicle for striving towards a world where every young person is empowered to have their say on the issues that affect them. As Chair – you could have the ultimate responsibility for helping the organisation achieve this.
As a non-binary person, and as a trustee of the British Youth Council, I welcome the support and safety that our organisation gives to young, trans people like me. As trustees, part of our responsibility to our charity is the commitment to defend our aims and interests, with a strong part of that being ensuring the implementation of our equal opportunities policy in all of our work.
The recent news suggesting that the Government has dropped its two-year commitment to reforming the Gender Recognition Act has been worrying. In a piece published on the front page of The Times on Sunday, the Government announced that, despite 70,000 (70%) of respondents writing in favor of reform in the consultation, the Government will not be adhering to their wishes.
The Gender Recognition Act reforms propose a number of ideas which will allow people like myself, and other trans people, the ability to live our lives safely. The reforms propose amending the Gender Recognition Act 2004, which at the time was a groundbreaking law, but now leaves us trailing behind many other countries in Europe and across the world. Reforming the Act will mean we will not have to pay costly amounts to access our healthcare – which is exclusionary to most young and working-class members of our community, and we would not have to wait years, sometimes decades, for the services we require. It would give, amongst other rights, easier routes to get trans identities legally recognised, and a recognition of non-binary identities in law. It would mean no evidence requirement of lived experience, as the current law depends on a diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria, which is a complex requirement with degrading and unnecessary barriers.
Proposed reforms also include the right to self-determination, including for 16 and 17 year olds, through a much simpler and more streamlined administrative process. At the British Youth Council, we have fought for the rights of 16 and 17 year olds to vote for nearly two decades because we understand that at 16, we have the ability to understand the decisions that affect us. By empowering young people in the trans community, we strengthen our commitment to our members, and the trans community across the country.
Before I started my first role in the British Youth Council five years ago – in the rural South West – I had never met someone like me. I am proud that our charity gives opportunities to meet people like ourselves in a welcoming environment, and the chance to learn from others. The British Youth Council has helped me to be out and proud. As someone tasked with guiding the future of our organisation, I would like our trans members, staff, and our allies to know that I am here for you, I see you, and our charity will continue to defend our rights across the country. We stand in solidarity with trans rights charities, and activists who are fighting for our recognition and safety in our country today, and in the future.
The British Youth Council is looking for people aged 16-25 who are motivated by a belief in the work of the British Youth Council to achieve our vision of the world where all young people are respected and able to influence and inform decisions that affect their lives or on which they have strong opinions.
The British Youth Council really is governed by young people for young people. Our board of trustees is made up of 13 people who are elected or appointed. The board not only sets the strategic direction of the organisation, but they also monitor progress, shape our activities and act as ambassadors and spokespeople for the British Youth Council in the media and elsewhere.
While your first goal as a trustee is to serve your peers and the British Youth Council, it is also a way to build your experience and networks, develop a broad range of skills and help shape the future of a world where all young people have a say and are heard.
We would encourage all ages to apply to bring both representations of those we serve alongside experience of governance. The British Youth Council needs a diverse, inclusive spread of ages and talents.
The deadline for applications is Monday 20th July 2020 at 9am.
Small Charities Week may only be one week, but if Covid-19 has shown us anything, it’s that small charities play a fundamental, and often undervalued, role in our society fifty-two weeks of the year. The aim of small charity week is to raise the profile, reach and awareness of organisations that perhaps don’t have the recognition of larger counterparts, but in my experience, often have a greater impact on the young people who need them most. With that, I wanted to focus this blog on a couple of small charities I know of, who could do with our support both now, and crucially, in the long term.
Kids of Colour are a pioneering small charity providing a platform for young people of colour to explore race, identity and culture and challenge the everyday, institutionalised racism that shapes their lives. In particular, their YouTube channel is a brilliant platform full of informative and moving stories from the kids themselves about their experiences.
The Damilola Taylor Trust is committed to providing inner-city youths with opportunities to play, learn and live their lives free of fear and violence, and with optimism for a future where opportunities flourish. Small charities like the Damilola Taylor Trust are more vital than ever. At a time when almost every single aspect of children’s lives have been turned upside down, we can’t continue to underinvest in their futures and risk an increase in crime affecting young people. I think we could all agree that everyone, regardless of age, could do with a bit of hope for young people right now.
And last, but definitely not least, the British Youth Council! I spoke last year about how many people are often surprised to find out that the British Youth Council is a small charity. I couldn’t be more proud and thankful for our wonderful staff team and trustees in making sure that young people’s voices are being meaningfully heard on the issues that matter to them, even throughout a global pandemic. A brilliant example; half way through writing this blog, the Bank of England shared a video of our Youth Forum members giving the feedback of over 900 young people’s Covid-19 related concerns directly to the Chief Economist. It would be so easy for institutions like the Bank of England to say that there is simply too much on for them at this time, and that a youth forum unfortunately is not a priority. Small charities like the British Youth Council making partnerships like this, will have a significant and positive impact on young people’s futures.
It is through ambitious, game-changing, and youth-led projects, like the ones mentioned above, that small charities like the British Youth Council are going to be so important over the next few months as we define our new normal. In the face of Covid-19, it’s been small charities who have excelled and shown what many of us already knew; it is often smaller charities who hold the fabric of our local communities and young people’s lives together. What we need is for society to champion our work and support us in any way possible.
The British Youth Council express discomfort and dismay at the murder of African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis. The UK Government must directly call out the abhorrent murder of another black person in the United States but it must also take steps to address deep-rooted racism in the UK. The statement follows widespread calls for an end to police brutality against black Americans.
The British Youth Council believes that black young people living in the UK should be treated equally in our communities and in society, stressing that the law should ensure this is the case. The youth-led charity repeats calls for the government to address racism in the UK. According to the charities own research, racism remains a prevalent issue in the lives of young people. The charity also found people’s attitudes towards racism have become normalised, suggesting the government needs to do more to address racism.
Larissa Kennedy, Trustee of the British Youth Council said: “Black young people continue to face the abhorrent scourge of racism, and despite having rights enshrined in law, racism continues to remain prevalent in everyday life of many people living in the UK.
“Young people have repeatedly made demands for political action on this issue and yet we have not seen any meaningful changes. From the police brutality that has taken Black lives, to the Windrush scandal and the hostile environment that has destroyed Black communities, it is clear that change is needed. It’s with that in mind, that this government must take steps to address deep-rooted racism in the UK because black young people deserve better.”
The British Youth Council are also concerned to learn about the findings of Public Health England’s investigation into the disproportionate number of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic deaths during the outbreak of Coronavirus. The report concludes there were a combination of factors but explicitly states that the impact Coronavirus has replicated existing health inequalities and, in some cases, has increased them. The national youth council, which is mandated by the views of its members, calls on the government to make a comprehensive response to the report, taking direct action to address the issues that have been highlighted.