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05 May 2015

5th May 2015

Our Director of Communications and Membership Jim Minton looks at how young people are represented by the parties’ policy promises

Back in 1987, John Craven’s Newsround – a pioneering TV programme which aimed to give young people ‘adult’ news in a way that they could relate to – ran a children’s general election in parallel with the real thing. A school in every constituency was picked, and candidates invited to stand (as independents, or notionally for any of the parties) and then run campaigns which would culminate in a secret ballot the week before the election itself.

My involvement was as a candidate who, sadly, finished a distant third when it came to the vote, but I felt the whole process was an amazingly energising journey: I had to read the manifestos of all the parties, so I could make my own arguments and challenge others. I had to speak up for what I believed in – both in public forums, and in arguments in the playground or in corridors. I even had to make a Party Election Broadcast using what at the time was cutting edge technology (the geography teacher owned a video camera, and let each of the candidates make a film!). I trust that mine will never appear on YouTube.

Of course, I was disappointed to lose. And surprised, in my naivety, about the impact that parents, the media and the outside world had on people’s opinions. Why was it that I could utterly convince myself of the rightness of my policy positions but not get others to agree with me, however well I presented them? But I did find myself fascinated by the battle of ideas, and how the same problem could apparently have a number of radically different solutions, depending on whose manifesto you read.

Now nearly 30 years on, I still get excited about the run up to the election, and am glad to find that many of the young people I engage with through London Youth’s network of member clubs are just as passionate as I was about making positive change.

Along with many other organisations, we’ve put in a lot of leg work – and expended plenty of social media energy – over recent weeks encouraging young people to vote. It seems like these efforts are paying off, with the youth organisation vInspired recently reporting that 70% of young people are now registered. Of course as a charity we can’t try and influence how young Londoners vote. And we wouldn’t want to: our ethos is all about supporting young people to learn and develop so that they can make their own choices and decisions about the issues that affect them. But we do want to help ensure that they – and the youth workers and other professionals who work with them – have the knowledge and information on which to base those decisions, in the context of a world where social media, news and peer to peer comment is massively more complex than it was when I was growing up.

At London Youth we first and foremost want young people to feel that they have what they need to make the choice to vote. From our point of view, whoever wins the election – or whatever coalition or co-operation emerges – we’d like to see a much stronger emphasis on supporting the positive potential of young people; and that they are committed to breaking down the barriers that prevent some young people from having the opportunities and support they need to thrive and prosper.

So while we don’t have our own manifesto, we will be working hard to ensure that whatever the government looks like, they:

  • Focus on removing barriers to employment, reaching out to young people who are currently missing out, and engage employers and young people in helping create opportunities for fulfilling careers
  • Acknowledge the needs of young people in terms of housing, social care, wellbeing, health and other services, and let young people have a voice in shaping these important services
  • Understand and value the role of informal education – what happens in youth organisations, community settings, outdoor education and elsewhere – as an essential element in helping young people develop their own personal emotional and social capabilities, as well as their technical skills
  • And ensure sufficient resources are generated to offer all young people access to the support they need to get involved in sport, positive social action, learning outside the classroom, and simple opportunities to have fun with their peers – so that they can get as good a springboard as possible into adulthood.

We’ve taken a look at the parties’ manifestos with this ambition in mind, and at the links below you can find summaries of what they are promising. We hope this is useful to young people, and those working with them – and I’ll be delighted if the 70% of young people who are now registered get up and get out on Thursday 7 May to make their voice heard, whichever way they have decided is best for them.

As I found in 1987, we won’t all get the outcome that we want. But by going through the process of understanding, challenging, debating and discussing the issues they care about, I hope that young people feel they’ve been part of an important process – and one that they will continue to engage with throughout their lives.

Read more about the policies that will affect young people here:

Social Action

Employment

Sports Development

Outdoor Education

Youth Work