This Summer thousands of young people across the United Kingdom have had their say on issues that are important to them, as the largest youth consultation across the country had over 865,000 responses. Make Your Mark is a British Youth Council (BYC) and United Kingdom Youth Parliament lead initiative that aims to get as many young people aged 11-18 involved in influencing decision making on a national scale.
With the youth consultation heading in to its fourth year there were high expectations across the country with a target of 1 million votes across the United Kingdom for 2014. Although there were around 135,000 less votes than targeted, it must not be underestimated what a huge achievement this is for young people across the United Kingdom, who actively engaged in issues that affect them and took their opportunity to influence decision makers on a national scale.
With issues ranging from a curriculum for life, to paying everyone the living wage, there really are a diverse range of topics for the young people to choose from. The format is very simple, this year there were 10 issues on the ballot paper and voter could pick ONE issue. The votes were then counted across the United Kingdom and fed back into BYC. From this the top 5 across the United Kingdom was established and these will now be debated by the Members of Youth Parliament across the country at a live televised House Of Commons debate on Friday 14th November.
The five topics that received the most votes in the ballot are:
- Votes at 16. Give 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote in elections and referendums.
- Everyone should be paid at least the Living Wage of £7.65 per hour (£8.80 in London). Anyone who works, regardless of age, should have a decent standard of living.
- Mental health services should be improved with our help. We should all learn about common mental health issues at school and negative stereotypes should be challenged.
- Work Experience. We should have the chance to do at least a week’s placement, at a place of our choosing. We should have access to professionals who inspire us.
- Bring back exam resits in Maths and English in English schools, and help us achieve our potential.
As you can see from the range of issues that made the top 5, the record number of young people who got involved are engaging in democracy and citizenship and have a range of opinions that challenging the notion that young people are politically apathetic. It shows young people do wish to engage with issues that are important to them and those which impact their current lives and could go on to prove detrimental to their future.
It was really rewarding and encouraging to go to a number of different youth groups and councils across the North West in the Summer. I witnessed the diversity and range of different young people in terms of age, religion and social background and what was even more impressive was to see how united these groups were across the North West and the United Kingdom. They were unified in their determination to make sure they got out and about and gave a voice to as many young people as possible.
There are always improvements that can be made and in the future the British Youth Council and other partner organisations will continue to develop their excellent programs. But what must be celebrated and championed is that this year over 865,000 young people made their mark.
The Youth Parliament will use its House of Commons debate to choose its priority campaigns for the year ahead from the five topics listed above. The debate will be chaired by The Rt. Hon. John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, recorded in Hansard and broadcast live on BBC Democracy Live.
Do your part and engage with the campaign by watching live, I’m certain you’ll be blown away by the articulate, passionate, civilised and well-mannered way in which young people will debate.
By Sam Richardson
[Image Credit: Adam Scotti]