On Wednesday 12th February, the Youth Select Committee launched its report investigating the knife crime ‘epidemic’ in the UK. The Committee has ruled cuts to important and arguably life-saving services for vulnerable young people have caused a rise in knife crime.
The report, titled ‘Our Generation’s Epidemic: Knife Crime’ is being launched by members of the Committee at a special House of Commons reception in anticipation of a government response. Knife crime was investigated following a 2018 UK-wide ballot of 1.1 million young people aged 11 to 18, in which young people declared knife crime their biggest concern.
Knife crime offences are reportedly at their highest in a decade, according to official figures from the Ministry of Justice. Research from the House of Commons Library also showed that knife crime, particularly where it affects young people, has been a ‘persistent and growing concern’ for successive governments.
The Committee’s key findings and recommendations include:
- Inequality within communities and difference in opportunities provided across the country makes some young people particularly vulnerable to the draw of violence and gangs. The Government should develop a plan with clear targets and deadlines aimed at tackling the injustices which make a young person more vulnerable to knife crime.
- The Government should develop long-term funding plans of at least 5 years to develop effective ways of helping and reaching young people at risk of getting involved in knife crime.
- The Government should ensure that the views of young people and those with lived experience of knife crime is embedded into the Serious Violence Strategy.
- School exclusion should be the last step in a long line of disciplinary measures, and schools should be held accountable for their exclusions.
- The Government should roll back the extension of stop and search powers until the disproportionate targeting of Black men has been addressed.
- The Government should clarify its position on short term custodial sentences for young people who carry knives and to consider whether there is another approach that could more effectively deter young people from continued involvement in knife crime.
- The next version of the Serious Violence Strategy should include an increased focus on restorative justice and other informal criminal justice responses as a first step to a young persons involvement in knife crime.
Rachel Ojo, Chair of the Youth Select Committee, said: “The Youth Select Committee are concerned with the government’s increasingly punitive approach to tackling knife crime.
“If the government wishes to confront the fundamental causes of the rise in violent crime amongst young people, it must do more to address and improve the difficult circumstances many young people are facing.”
The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee, which is supported by UK Parliament, gives young people the opportunity to scrutinise and hold inquiries into topics that matter to them. The Committee is made up of eleven committee members aged 11-18 and include Members of the UK Youth Parliament, Youth Councillors and representatives from each of the devolved nations.
Evidence for the Youth Select Committee’s report on knife crime was gathered in July from a range of expert witnesses, including leaders from the worlds of criminal justice, politics and the charity sector. Just like UK Parliament Select Committees, the Youth Select Committee heard evidence inside a Committee Room in Parliament, which is normally reserved for MPs, and their report will now be sent to the Government for an official response.
On 14th November, the British Youth Council held a drinks reception for the Friends of the British Youth Council and many of our supporters. It was a fantastic evening which saw alumni, donors, staff, trustees, partners and friends come together and celebrate all that they have made possible by supporting the British Youth Council!
After some initial welcome drinks, our guests were welcomed by Deputy Chair of the British Youth Council, Kyle Parks, who spoke eloquently about what the charity has achieved over the past year, including youth forum work with both the Bank of England and the NHS, and follow up work on the Youth Select Committee work. He also stressed how incredible it was to see British Youth Council alumni from many different years all in one room “connecting or reconnecting with each other and keeping relationships within the British Youth Council community strong”. He set out the future plans for the charity commenting; “we are on a great path, maturing as a charity, as we aim to move up a gear in our fundraising and partnerships.”
Rounding up the welcome speech he went on to introduce Mita Desai, our keynote speaker for the evening. An unyielding advocate for youth voice, Mita has been fighting for young people to be heard continually throughout her career. She spoke about her experience as a trustee on the British Youth Council board and later as Chair, describing it as a fantastic learning experience which shaped her future career. Specifically, Mita now manages the Young Trustees Movement for the Social Change Agency, with aims of doubling the number of Young Trustees by 2024. This work was directly influenced by Mita’s time on the board, which inspired her to see the potential of young people and the immense benefit of including their voices in decision-making.
She ended her speech by reminding attendees of the importance of lifting young voices up and making sure they are heard. She encouraged everyone to continue to support the British Youth Council to ensure we can carry on our work and keep empowering young people to speak up and make a change. Small regular donations to the British Youth Council are one of the most beneficial ways to support the charity into the future we’d love you to set up a regular donation.
A huge thank you to everyone who attended and made the evening so special, we hope to see you at future Friends of British Youth Council events!
If you missed this event but are interested in attending future events, please do make sure to sign up to the Friends of British Youth Council mailing list.
The 2nd EU youth conference of the trio presidency of Romania, Finland and Croatia was held in Helsinki, the capital of Finland over the course of the 1st– 3rd of July. Hosted jointly between the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, the theme of the conference was how we can create opportunities for youth and how youth work meets the needs and expectations of young people all over Europe.
Throughout the course of the conference delegates, including myself, heard lectures from intellectuals and senior youth workers on how youth work can be reformed and the different approaches that countries across the continent use in doing youth work in their countries as well as about how training for youth workers can be developed, focused on practical work with young people and using case studies more effectively in doing young.
As part of the conference, as it tied in with the 6th Cycle of the EU youth dialogue, there were forums for youth delegate to engage in dialogues with decision makers, such as (at the time) Finland’s Minister for Science and Culture, Annika Saarikko (who opened the conference with a speech about the part that young people have to play in the future of Europe), the EU commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics as well as academics in the field of Youth work such as Dr Marco Kovacic from the Zagreb institute for social research, Dr Tomi Kiilakoski from the Finnish Youth Research Society and Dr Howard Williamson from the University of South Wales.
In order to take a wider approach to the theme of the conference, delegates were split into groups each focusing on a different aspect of how youth work meets the expectations and needs of young people and how it can create opportunities for youth. I, myself, was in the group that focused on accessibility in youth work, we focused on how we can make inclusive physical spaces for youth work to take place in and how we can use inclusive communication in youth work as well as how you work provisions and services can be accessed. The four other groups focused on Sustainability in youth work, Multicultural youth work, (focusing on how to create inclusive societies in youth work and how we can promote cultural diversity) Digitalisation and young people (as well how it can tie in with youth work) and the Future of youth work and the employability of young people.
As part of this, delegates took part in field visits to local Finnish institutions linked to the themes that each group were focusing on, my group were visited by young representatives of the Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired as well as Aseman Lapset ry and the other group visited groups tied in with their topics, these groups were Sustainability in youth work- Kumpula School Garden, Luonto Liitto ry- The Finnish Nature League and Changemaker; Multicultural Youth Work- The Non-Toxic Project, Dancemaker Academy and Sámi Siida ry; Digitalisation and Young People- The Finnish Media Education Society, Verke- Centre of Expertise for Digital Youth Work and Digitalents and Future of Youth Work- Ohjaamo Helsinki, Kreisiryhmä and Value based Leadership Education
In closing, the EU Youth Conference in Finland was a productive and engaging one, it was refreshing to hear the opinions of different young people from across Europe about different issues that affect them and others across the continent, I’m looking forward to seeing how we build on the recommendations from the conference in Zagreb next March!
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’s Youth Select Committee formally begins a new inquiry into the UK’s knife crime epidemic. The pioneering Committee is calling for evidence from a wide range of contributors, including young people, charities, and businesses.
The announcement comes following a UK-wide ballot of young people 1.1 million aged 11 to 18 in which young people
But research from the House of Commons library has given even greater cause for concern on the spread of the epidemic, as it revealed that knife crime, particularly where it affects young people, has been a ‘persistent and growing concern’ for successive governments.
Putting a stop to the ever-growing scourge of knife crime is fast becoming a national priority, with the Government making several announcements in recent months, including the introduction of knife crime prevention orders and investment in early intervention projects.
Now in its eighth year, the Youth Select Committee is a British Youth Council initiative, supported by the House of Commons. The eleven committee members are aged 15-17 and include Members of the UK Youth Parliament, Youth Councillors, and representatives from each of the devolved nations.
This year, the committee will look at issues including:
- Is the Government strategy doing enough to effectively combat knife crime?
- Are there trends in
the statisticsof who is perpetrating and who are the victims of knife crime?
- How is knife crime
Bailey-Lee Robb, a Member of the Youth Select Committee from Fife, Scotland said: “Young people have made it very clear that knife crime continues to be a significant concern.
“The Youth Select Committee want to hear from a whole range of people on this issue so we can find solutions that will have a demonstrable impact of the lives of young people.”
Rt. Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons said: “Every year the Youth Select Committee play a vital role in raising awareness about the issues affecting young people across the country.
“This year the Committee’s determination to tackle the epidemic of knife crime is something that I wholly support. I will be following this pioneering Committee as they investigate the scourge of knife crime and I eagerly anticipate their report.”
The Youth Select Committee call for evidence closes on Friday 7th June 2019 and the Committee will hold oral evidence sessions in the House of Commons in July.
With our broad and diverse membership, our organisation represents voices of young people in all areas of the country. Often, youth councils, scout and guides groups, and our other members are the only access to opportunities for young people in rural areas, and therefore many of our policies and aims focus on these regions. The concern over the accessibility of public transport has therefore been raised through our members’ campaigns year after year, and especially in more rural parts of the country like mine, the South West.
Without access to regular, affordable bus services, young people can be isolated from friends, education, and work opportunities, and this is further impacted by the rising costs of car insurance and associated costs. With the report showing that 89% of rural journeys are made by car, it is clear that young people who are both below the age of driving, and who cannot afford to drive when they reach that point, are therefore severely disadvantaged by a lack of sustainable transport options.
We are pleased that our research into this issue from our earlier reports has been mentioned in this year’s Rural England Report. The findings of the report were drawn from, our 2012 Youth Select Committee report, researched costs, accessibility, and the impact rural transport provisions have, and so this reference is a credit to the young people campaigning on transport services. It is clear that transport has a huge effect on life chances through education, a correlation that can be drawn between costs and numbers of routes in rural counties and countless social mobility reports. Further to this, the Rural England Report also highlights how library service budgets are 25% lower in rural areas than urban ones, which can severely impact educational achievements, and many rural areas also don’t have access to university libraries – like my county, Somerset.
The findings of the report support the work out members in rural communities have been doing, and the issues they have been raising, so we hope this report shows the Government the work that needs to be done to ensure young people in rural regions are disadvantaged on the basis of where we live.
We are pleased that our voices have been recognised in this report, and The British Youth Council will proudly continue to raise voices of young people who can feel isolated and a world away from decision makers; a bridge we work to build. Rural concerns will always be central to the work of the British Youth Council, as we further our journey to empowering the voices of young people all across our country.
The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee has received an official response from the UK Government on work experience. The response follows an extensive investigation into the barriers faced by young people across the country in accessing quality work experience. The Government have acknowledged its role in ‘preparing students for adult life’ and the importance of work experience but make no concrete commitments to address the concerns highlighted by the committee.
The British Youth Council were disappointed to learn that the response from the Department for Education contained ambiguous answers to many of the recommendations made by the Youth Select Committee. In November 2018, the committee ruled that the Government needed to take action on ‘unequal’ work experience opportunities.
Within the response, which answers each of the recommendations made by the committee, the Government state ‘every pupil should have first-hand experiences of the workplace’. However, the Government refused to make a firm commitment to commission further research on the quality work experience, stating they would only ‘look carefully’ at how they can improve their evidence base.
The Government also recognise more can be done to build on the work so far to encourage businesses of all sizes and across all sectors to offer young people experiences of the workplace. Despite this, the Government give the committee no assurances on how this will be improved.
The committee did welcome the Government’s plan to undertake further work to understand whether there is value in dedicating a section of the National Careers Service website to work experience. We were also pleased to hear the Government intend to involve young people in the design and testing of any new resources and services.
Claudia Quinn, Chair of the Youth Select Committee, from Liverpool said: “The Youth Select Committee were disappointed to learn that the Government accept their role in preparing students for adult life and the importance of work experience but make no concrete commitments to address the concerns highlighted by the committee’s extensive inquiry.
“The Government need to take steps to address the patchy, unequal nature of young people’s access to work experience and this response doesn’t take into account the very real concerns we’ve brought to their attention.
“We were, however, pleased with the Government’s commitment to involve young people in the design and testing of any National Careers Services’ new resources and services. Young people should be consulted on things that impact them and we’re excited to hear the Government have acknowledged this.”
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 examine different aspects of the widely reported knife crime epidemic.
The Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP, Secretary of State for Education, has just announced that, in a move affecting all schools across the country from September 2020, the government will introduce mandatory relationships and health education in schools. This will add to current schooling guidance on online safety, mental and physical health, financial literacy, and relationships, in what represents “a major step in addressing concerns about consistency of quality and reduced curriculum time for PSHE”.
This follows work from a vast array of sources: the PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic) Association, tens of thousands of young people across the UK, and from the British Youth Council’s own Youth Select Committee and UK Youth Parliament.
It’s not as if the signs haven’t been there. Young people have been campaigning to leave school with a “good level of understanding of mental health… (with) the ability to understand and develop their own mental wellbeing” (Youth Select Committee 2015 ), and almost 120,000 young people voted mental health services as their top priority in the 2017 Make Your Mark ballot. Young people want education that is fit for purpose, education that serves to better the understanding of key topics facing them today. Young people are living in a world where mental health and wellbeing is ever more crucial to understand, with 75% of young people with a mental health problem not receiving treatment, depression being the biggest cause of ill health among teenagers around the world , and the most common reason for Childline Counselling sessions in 2016/17 being mental and emotional health.
The painting is a grim one.
In my capacity as a trustee of the British Youth Council, and in my work in the youth sector over the last eight years, I have worked with thousands of young people. I will never forget the mum of a girl I worked with at a youth club, in one of my first positions engaging with young people, who I sat down with and explained that depression didn’t mean there was anything wrong with her daughter, and that it didn’t make her ‘different’. We eventually decided to roll the mental health talk out to the group, as it was clearly not something they had heard before.
To see her daughter, who was a gem, coming out of her shell and getting excited and confident on a club trip to the seaside later that year, unshackled by negative perceptions of her own mental health, and with friends who understood her was and is one of my most rewarding experiences working with young people to date.
What I’m trying to say is, it’s great that the government is rolling this out. It’s needed, though. It’s badly needed.
When YouGov find that more than half of young people “feel embarrassed about mental illness”, when last year’s Youth Select Committee conclude that “body dissatisfaction causes long-lasting consequences for young people”, it feels like the government have only made a small step in the right direction.
Updating guidance that was last updated in 2000 is a positive start.
Ensuring children grow up to “become happy and well-rounded individuals who know how to deal with the challenges of the modern world” is crucial.
I warmly welcome the government listening to young people, but cannot stress enough the urgency of this problem, and a warning against piecemeal action. Creating PSHE that works for young people, makes them healthy, happy citizens, is of vital importance over the years to come.
We’re on the right path, but we’re not there yet.