Youth Futures Foundation has announced a new partnership with the British Youth Council to put young people’s voices at the heart of all the not-for-profit’s activities. They are inviting charities and organisations working with young people who face barriers to employment to encourage them to apply.
Eleven young people will form the Future Voices Group, which will work with the staff team and Board of Directors to advise and feed into Youth Futures Foundation’s vision and strategy, the things it funds, its research, communications approach and partnerships.
The British Youth Council has been championing youth voice since its foundation over 70 years ago and will support members of the group. Youth Futures was established in 2019 with a remit to understand and share ‘what works’ to help young people who are most disadvantaged, have equitable access to quality jobs.
Alex Morawski, a Member of the Youth Futures Foundation’s Board of Non-Executive Directors and incoming Chair of the Future Voices Group said: ”The Future Voices Group not only gives young people a seat at the table, it invites them to lead the conversation on youth employment. This is an opportunity for young people to challenge the status quo and for their experiences to inform ambitious changes to remove the barriers to securing meaningful work which so many face.”
Sarah Staples, Chair of the British Youth Council, the charity helping to deliver the programme, said: “The global outbreak of coronavirus and its economic impacts mean unemployment will be a key concern of young people across the country.
“We’re really excited to be working with the Youth Futures Foundations to form the Future Voices Group. It’s really important that young people have an opportunity to influence the conversations surrounding youth unemployment. Young people want to be at the forefront of challenging the many barriers they face when trying to secure a fruitful career.”
Anyone interested in joining the Future Voices Group must be aged between 16 and 24 years, resident in England and have direct or indirect experience of facing barriers to gaining meaningful employment. Examples include being of ethnic minority heritage, a refugee or asylum seeker, having a special educational need, physical disability or long-term health condition or coming from a socio-economically deprived background.
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.
Reflecting back over my last two years as chair of British Youth Council, and the prior year as a trustee is significantly harder, weirder and less straightforward than I would have imagined. The past three years have definitely been varied – both in terms of what young people have prioritised via British Youth Council and of the challenges our generation has faced. Did I expect to be finishing during a pandemic, and to have all our activities and meetings happening digitally since February? Absolutely not. But despite finishing in very odd circumstances, I consider myself to be unbelievably lucky to have chaired the charity over these two years.
I have been privileged enough to work with talented, young trustees and a wonderfully dedicated staff team. I have taken the priorities of young people directly to Number 10, and represented younger generations at home and abroad, and so much more. This was a brilliant and challenging role, leading a progressive and important charity, and I will always be hugely thankful to the members for electing me in September 2018.
In a way, my two years as British Youth Council chair have been a story of two halves.
On the one hand, the British Youth Council has increased the number of young people meaningfully engaged with, and in particular have reached more disadvantaged young people, and given a platform to overlooked groups such as young carers. We have successfully launched several new initiatives that I firmly believe will benefit young generations and society as a whole, like our Bank of England Youth Forum. We have continued to tackle big issues that matter to younger generations much earlier than other organisations, such as via our Youth Select Committee enquiries into pressing issues like body image in young people and tackling knife crime. We’ve also been at forefront of influencing the decisions being taken at the heart of government through DCMS’s Youth Steering Group.
The trustee board has moved forward in our collective knowledge and understanding of good governance, and I also believe our reputation as a youth-led charity has influenced other charities to see the benefits of having young trustees. There’s plenty to do to ensure we are continuously improving for our members, but I can confidently say we are more upfront, and transparent with our members than many other organisations about where we can improve.
On the other hand, it has felt more and more challenging to persuade people with influence to truly commit to meaningful, long-term engagement and discussion with younger generations. All too often, young people or representatives are invited into the decision-making room, and asked if we think a youth-focused plan or strategy is ‘good enough’. More often than not, if that young person says ‘no’, even if we then clearly explain why nothing will change. Why then, are organisations and leaders asking for youth feedback, if not to take it onboard? What is the point of inviting young people into the rooms of power, if not to treat them as equals? Why are ‘adults’ allowed to say no, but young people are expected to ‘take anything we can get’?
Do I believe that young people are more valued, treated with more respect, and provided with significantly more opportunity to influence government policy that directly impacts them than I believe we were back in September 2018? Unfortunately, no, and I wouldn’t be honest if I said otherwise. It would be easy to conclude that “we’re in a pandemic, of course, meaningful youth engagement is less of a priority” but this is the wrong conclusion. I have always believed that if young people (who are inevitably going to have to shoulder the impact of Covid-19 the longest) are not properly considered and consulted about our collective approach to tackling the pandemic, then these generations would become more disillusioned and left behind in the future.
Young people are struggling through the same storm of the pandemic that older generations are, but to say we are all going through this storm in the same boat is wrong. Education has been severely disrupted. We face the worst employment prospects of any generation. Our generation has devastatingly poor mental health. All of these are already difficult enough issues to face, but we must always highlight the fact that young people from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority communities are disproportionately negatively affected compared to their peers. The fact that we have seen no clearly defined national strategy to address this inequality should be a cause of national shame, and it is unsurprising to me that it is predominantly young people standing up and speaking out about this.
It has never been more important to value the voices and opinions of young people, and yet it can often feel like it has never been so difficult to get into the room where decisions about us are made. The British Youth Council continues to grow in importance, relevance and progressiveness, and I’m confident Sarah Staples, the new Chair and the team will continue to push forward on behalf of young people, ensuring that young voices are meaningfully heard. I sincerely hope those who are decision-makers and those who can affect change will reflect, and rapidly improve how they work with young people as partners. I am very excited to see what the trustees and charity as a whole achieve over the next few years, and will always continue to champion #YouthVoice.
I want to thank our wonderful staff for supporting both the board as a whole and myself personally over the last few years. It has never failed to impress and amaze me quite how much impactful work we deliver as a small charity, and a significant proportion of that is due behind the scenes efforts of our entire team. Similarly, I absolutely cannot praise the trustees enough for the standard they hold themselves, and deliver, too.
I count myself fortunate to have led a board as young, diverse, and talented as British Youth Council have. Charities that serve young people are stronger, more resilient and more relevant when they have young people on their governing bodies. After sitting on various charity trustee boards, I can confidently say that the British Youth Council trustees understand their roles better and their responsibility more seriously than boards that fit our charity sector norm of older, whiter, and more male. Our young members are incredibly lucky to be supported by such wonderful and passionate people.
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.
My name is Joe Stockley, and I’m a trustee for the British Youth Council. I also run Communications for an equality charity in Wales called Diverse Cymru, and worked with and around the British Youth Council for six years. Those past six years have been quite a wild ride – graduating, unemployment, flirting with homelessness, and lots more – but the constant has been the incredible support, development, and time the British Youth Council has offered me.
In October, I’ll no longer be a trustee for the best youth voice charity I’ve ever been involved with. Of course, this is not the end of the road, the road is just beginning. I cannot wait to use my experience and expertise to fight the corner for young people, for equality, and to continue clearing the way for others and happily watch as they change the world. So what has the British Youth Council done for me? Why is it so close to my heart? Read on for insights of a retiring British Youth Council trustee.
The Trustee Board
For two and a half years I sat on the board of a one million pound charity who support young people across the UK and give youth voice the attention it deserves, with 11 other young people, all under 25, with exceptional skills and abilities. We have auditors, activists, fundraisers, and so much more around the table, all focal voices for young people across the country. We hold the charity to account, and support the organisation to be the best it can be. It is a lot of work, but there’s nothing like it.
It’s one of those roles – if you want it to be transformative, and you put the time in, it will change your life. There have been tough conversations, I have learned to manage conflict. There have been big wins, I have learned to capitalise on success. There has been so so many things I didn’t understand, I have learned to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
In what other environment can young people be as central to their own cause? Charities that work with young people having young trustees is still a relatively new concept for some reason: “nothing about us without us.” In what other environment can young people get such an overarching understanding of running an organisation, and such a flavour of the problems facing our society, and start to propose solutions? Diversity of opinion leads to good decision-making, we know that, yet for some reason think trustee boards of charities are exempt from that golden rule. There is also the issue of sustainability – we want to create a living, breathing, dynamic third sector, all of the young trustees of the British Youth Council will know and understand what makes a good charity tick, and will (hopefully) be more inclined to work in the sector.
The board of the British Youth Council has been a pleasure to work with for three years, in good times and in bad. I have made friends who I will always stay in contact with, and sometimes ring for advice (and vice versa, I hope!).
We, as young people, are the future. That’s a fairly indisputable statement – rooted in fact and time. Let me blow your mind – young people can be the ‘now’. If you believe in young people, and move out of the way of young people, young people can be the now, can change the world, can change their community, can change their life. They need support – don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t? The British Youth Council has been working to gather hundreds of thousands of opinions, young people across the UK have been telling us for years what their priorities are, and we’ve been facilitating youth select committees who have convened on top issues. The space is made for young people, and they fill it with their voices, and with expertise in themselves. That’s one of the reasons I have been so happy as a trustee with the British Youth Council. I feel that I have been part of a genuinely leading organisation, who have made the UK a better place for young people. Let’s not forget how bleak it currently is for youth in the UK – they have been royally screwed with grades, BTec students only just getting their results now, two recessions in a lifetime. Employment is more difficult than ever, with youth working in sectors most likely to make redundancies. House prices soar, wages stagnate. Youth services are slashed. Nearly one in three young people in Wales live in poverty, according to End Child Poverty Network research. Combine all of that and you have the lowest youth overall wellbeing index since Prince’s Trust records began. Young people need hope, they need attention, they need a voice that is listened to. That is a central pillar of our work, and one our staff fulfill day in, and day out.
We give young people hope in hopeless situations.
One of those young people was me – and for that I will be always grateful.
That is why I wanted to be a trustee for the British Youth Council, that’s why I donate every month to their work. That’s why I’ll always stay in touch with the organisation – they are hope givers.
In two months, I’ll no longer be a trustee for the best youth voice charity I’ve ever been involved with – but that’s just the start.
This time last year, when I clicked the ‘Submit’ button on my Bank of England Youth Forum application, a wave of anxiety hit me. I thought, “I am the last person anyone would associate with enjoying maths or economics, and I definitely have no clue how to set up an ISA… why on Earth did I just apply to this?” A few moments later, after the initial anxiety had subsided, I realised this was exactly why I needed to apply; if I didn’t have a clue about the world of finance and economics, then other young people definitely share my pain.
My financial education in school consisted of a money management booklet being dropped on my desk, which I shoved to the bottom of my schoolbag. However, I wanted to get better at understanding how the economy worked, and to do this I knew I had to actively immerse myself in it. If someone had told me last year, that I would represent over 900 young people’s views on how a global pandemic financially affected them, or quizzed the Bank of England’s Chief Economist on the Bank’s transparency regulations, I would have laughed in their face.
After it became clear the Coronavirus outbreak would have a disastrous affect on our economy, a small group from the youth panel, formed an Immediate Response Team. We felt it was vital that we urgently gauged the national opinion of young people, so we created a survey, which asked: ‘How is COVID-19 affecting you, financially, as a young person?’ It was clear from the survey results, that there is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety from young people during this crisis, and many noted feeling that their future is up in the air. We wanted to share these concerns with the Bank and were given an opportunity to present our survey findings to the Bank of England’s Chief Economist Andy Haldane.
Presenting to Andy Haldane, with the Bank of England’s Immediate Response Team, was definitely the highlight of my time on the youth panel. For those of you, like me, who did not know, my brother informed me kindly over the dinner table the night before the presentation, that in 2014 Andy Haldane was named by Time Magazine as one of the world’s top 100 most influential people (no pressure, then). From lowering interest rates, to working with the Government to ensure we strive for environmental sustainability in our economic recovery plan, we held him to account on a range of issues. Voicing the issues that young people care about to influential institutions, like the Bank of England, allows you to have real impact in youth voice.
For me, joining the Bank of England Youth Forum, has been about asking young people what they think, listening to their concerns, and ensuring their voices are heard. I am sure you will agree with me when I say that now more than any other period in recent history, young people need to have a seat at the table. The BBC reported in a recent article, that ‘Under 25’s and women financially worst-hit [by COVID-19]’. Therefore, it is vital that young people are asking key questions, like: What does this mean for us? How can better educate our young people on economics? Are the Bank of England representing young people to the best of their ability? Only in answering questions like these can we ensure young people are properly represented.
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.