A MANIFESTO designed by young people from Yorkshire and Humber to improve democracy has been published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).
Using innovative ‘deliberative’ research methods, IPPR North empowered young people from across the region, who gathered at Leeds Civic Hall this autumn, to develop their own ideas for improving youth participation in democracy.
The event was attended by metro mayor Tracy Brabin, who turned up to listen to the young people’s ideas. As well as improving how democracy works, the young people explained that they wanted to see action on the issues they care about.
Researchers found that these young people care about a wide range of policy issues, including the climate crisis, education, mental health, housing, transport, jobs and wages, and gender-based violence – and they want to advise politicians and see action on these and other issues. “We asked these young people about the future of democracy: they told us about the urgent action that politicians need to take now on the issues they care about”, explained IPPR North’s deliberative research lead, Becca Massey Chase.
The young people developed policy ideas to improve democracy, including on:
- Investment: Long term investment in ‘youth voice’, following over a decade of austerity which has seen youth services eroded.
- Engagement: The young people want to advise, work with, and hold politicians at all levels to account, including through Youth PMQs, youth combined authorities having the ability to advise mayors, mandatory MP visits and councillor visits to schools twice a year, and the creation of diverse youth boards for all government departments.
- Education: The young people want better political education, to influence the national curriculum, for Ofsted to assess the quality of youth voice in schools, and UCAS points for voluntary work and participation in democratic processes.
IPPR North have teamed up with the young people to call on politicians at all levels to engage with young people on their terms – and some from across the region have already begun to do so, with Mayor Tracy Brabin explaining that she wants “young people to feel like they can hold me to account, and work with me on delivering the change our region needs”.
Edie, 13 years old, from Leeds, said: “Young people have great ideas that can shape the future – but we lack opportunities to have our voices heard.”
Will, 16 years old, from Calderdale, said: “Young people aren’t just the future. We are also the present. What we believe, experience and think; our ideas, insights and contributions can’t wait. Young people deserve recognition in decision making processes. Too often politicians will ‘listen’ to us so they can reassure voters and themselves that they value us. And too often what we say is never acted upon. Democracy and Britain will always be evolving but will always be improved when young people are at their heart. Democracy is people power and young people must be given the power to act and be listened to.”
Curtis, 16 years old, from Rotherham, said: “Young people for many years have always tried to engage in political processes. They just now need to be recognised, encouraged, supported and be given the consistent opportunities to do so now!”
Tracy Brabin, metro mayor of West Yorkshire, said: “I’m really grateful to IPPR North for bringing me together with so many inspiring young people at Leeds Civic Hall to discuss the issues that really matter to them – whether it’s climate change, affordable housing, or Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.
“It’s absolutely essential for our democracy that young people feel empowered and listened to by political leaders, because they will be the political leaders of the future. Some of the young people I met went on to COP-26, and the very best speeches I heard were from young people from across the Globe.
“When you look at the major crises facing this country, it’s often young people who have the most skin in the game. They’re the ones who will inherit the planet we’re destroying. They’re the ones who are paying half of their income or more on rent. And they’re the ones who are facing obstacles to having the very best start in life, because of the colour of their skin, or their gender, or their parents’ pay-packet.
“I want to give young people in West Yorkshire something to vote for. Someone who will deliver the well-paid, skilled, green jobs of the future. Someone who will fight for a public transport system that’s fit for the 21st Century – one that allows our young people to find opportunities and fulfil their potential. And someone who will put Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the heart of everything they do.
“And, perhaps most importantly, I want young people to feel like they can hold me to account, and work with me on delivering the change our region needs”.
IPPR North’s Becca Massey Chase, said: “Our research shows that through their experiences and innovative ideas, young peoples’ voices have the potential to enrich policymaking at all levels. Many young people want to participate in civic society ‘beyond the ballot box’, so it’s time for every politician – from parish councillors through to the Prime Minister – to commit to acting upon what they have to say, and working in partnership with young people to improve democracy here in the UK.
“We asked these young people about the future of democracy: they told us about the urgent action that politicians need to take now on the issues they care about.”
* Read Making democracy work for young people: A manifesto by young people from Yorkshire and the Humber here.
* Source: IPPR