The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee has expressed disappointment at the government’s continued punitive approach to knife crime. In response to the Youth Select Committee’s knife crime report, the government have laid out their plans to combat the knife crime epidemic.
Responding to the report, the government stated it was ‘determined to tackle the scourge of serious violence’. The Committee has scrutinised the response and welcomes the government’s investment in Violence Reduction Units. It also applauded the government’s commitment to listening to the wider community including young people as part of the Serious Violence Strategy.
In response, the Government committed to tackling violent crime, including addressing key drivers of crime and diverting people away from involvement in serious violence. The Government emphasised targeted investment in early intervention programmes that will help young people, as well as initiatives to support youth workers, ex-offenders and those who have been expelled from school.
However, the committee is concerned to learn the government has ignored many of the recommendations made by the group of young people. Following the response, the committee wishes to reiterate some of their key recommendations and underline the importance of meaningfully engaging young people in decision making.
The committee recommends:
- The Committee were particularly disappointed to see the government taking steps to introduce the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which only serves to extend punitive measures and could take more steps to enshrine preventative measures into law.
- The Government should roll back the extension of stop and search powers until the disproportionate targeting of Black men has been addressed. The Committee is especially concerned that the Serious Violence Reduction Order, which gave police personalised powers to target “proven criminals”, may lead to greater targeting of Black men; this power will make it easier to stop and search with no immediate reason.
- 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 has highlighted welcome investment for the youth sector but, in their response to the Committee’s report, has not set out a strategy for how they will address the systemic issues which trap young people in a cycle of violence.
- The Government should commit to long term funding plans of at least 5 years to ensure partners are able to develop effective ways of helping young people at risk of knife crime. The Committee noted that many of the interventions highlighted in their response were only funded over 1-3 years.
- The Government should continue to work to ensure that the views of young people and those with lived experience of knife crime is embedded into the Serious Violence Strategy.
Commenting on the government’s response to the report on knife crime, Rachel Ojo, Chair of the Youth Select Committee, said: “The Youth Select Committee is very pleased to have finally received a response from the Government – over a year after our report was released.
“The issue of violent knife crime is one of the biggest facing young people in this country and we are glad that some of our recommendations have been agreed to. However, we feel the government could be doing much more and we implore the government to act on their commitment, to ensure that tackling knife crime is not only top of their agenda but that preventative measures take priority.”
Knife crime continues to be a significant issue in England and Wales, according to official figures from the Office for National Statistics. 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 response from the Home Office has been issued following the committees thorough inquiry. Knife crime was examined following a UK-wide ballot of 1.1 million young people aged 11 to 18, in which young people declared knife crime their biggest concern. Subsequently the investigation concluded knife crime was fuelled by cuts to important and arguably life-saving public services for vulnerable young people. The committee concluded that socio-economic factors are crucial in making some young people vulnerable to violence, gangs and knife crime and highlighted the need for better services to reach those at risk.
The Youth Select Committee, which is supported by UK Parliament and the British Youth Council, 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.
Policy plays a big role in our work here at the British Youth Council. It is driven directly from the manifestos of the UK Youth Parliament and the British Youth Council. These important documents, like all the work we do, are formed and reviewed by young people depicting what local and international issues matter most to them. The motions put forth in these documents also include the British Youth Council’s annual priority topics, which young people actively go on to campaign on, with one of our biggest campaigns being the Votes at 16 campaign. With the help of many other organisations, coalitions with the same aims, and government groups we are involved with such as All Party Parliamentary Groups, campaigns like this in particular have gone on to make real change in other parts of the UK.
Our policy work as helped young people interact and engage with various political stakeholders in a wide range of programmes. Some of these include the Covid-19 Task Force Enquiry, the DCMS Youth Review, and the Youth Voice Group, who have worked to pair young people with government departments such as the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Cabinet Office to consult on topics such as domestic abuse. They have helped us to create platforms and opportunities where young people can feel empowered to speak up on important matters that affect their lives, and make relevant changes.
Another programme led by young people is the Youth Select Committee. This has showcased the real importance of our policy work, having launched their report on knife crime in 2019, which the Government has acknowledged and responded to. Prior this report, young people facilitated various roundtables, consultations, and meetings forming crucial relationships with political leaders and community organisations also keen to dismantle the knife crime epidemic.
Finally, to shine light on the amazing international team and their tremendous engagement within international policy. The British Youth Council currently have two of our UK Young Ambassadors actively serving and representing on international boards; the Commonwealth Youth Council and The European Youth Parliament. Our international team help represent the young people in our community on international issues such as the environment and gender-based violence, having recently written a joint letter with the European Youth Forum to our Foreign Office calling for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. In all, young people have shown tremendous commitment to making positive change in the world of policy.
If you care about our policy work which enables us to empower young people and provide them with a platform to speak up and be heard, please show your support with a small donation, or sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with our activities!
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.