Sunday, 14 April 2024
Sunday, 14 April 2024

UK youth seek political voice: ‘Our Generation. Our Vote’ initiative empowers

NEW research from the UK’s top youth and education organisations has revealed that only one in ten 8–17-year-olds believe that politicians always or often focus on the needs of young people when making decisions. 

The polling by Opinium – which was commissioned by a coalition including Save the Children, NCS (National Citizen Service), ACT (Association for Citizenship Teaching), Young Citizens and The Politics Project – found that over half (57%) of those surveyed expressed that they feel politicians rarely or never listen to them, whilst almost nine in ten young people believe it’s important to have a say in the decisions that politicians make.  

The findings mark the launch of ‘Our Generation. Our Vote’ – the largest of its kind election for children and young people, which will give under 18-year-olds across England and Wales the opportunity to cast their vote through their school or youth group for political candidates in their constituencies, with results to be announced ahead of the General Election later this year. The project will be run through schools and youth groups and aims to teach young people about politics and democracy, whilst also carving out an important space for young voices ahead of the general election. 

As parties from across the political divide prepare to set out their stall in their election manifestos, young people revealed that safety and mental health are the most important issues affecting them. Over half (56%) of those surveyed selected safety as their top issue with a particular focus on bullying and safety at school. This was followed by mental health (46%) and social media (38%).  

More than a fifth of children listed the cost of things, with 68% of those young people worried about the cost of groceries and over half (58%) concerned about bills such as heating. More than a fifth of young people also cited climate change as one of the most important issues affecting children and young people.   

Darcy, 16, from Newcastle and Maddy, 16, from Devon, took part in Save the Children’s Potential Not Poverty campaign last year and hope to cast their ballot in the ‘Our Generation. Our Vote’ election. This year, they are supporting the election for children and are excited to have the opportunity to use their voices to influence political decision-makers.  

Maddy said:  

“There is a stigma around children taking part and having a voice in politics. Often adults don’t listen to what we have to say.   

“Young people’s opinions do matter, and we need to be heard.   

“I am excited that through ‘Our Generation. Our Vote’ children are getting the chance to tell politicians about the issues that matter to us and show adults that young people care about the future.”  

Darcy said: 

“Younger generations inherit what adults decide so I think it is really important that young people have a say in decisions that will affect our future.   

“Children see and experience things in a different way than adults. Our perspectives are important. Currently, it feels like our politicians don’t represent us. We want more younger people in politics and politicians to take the time to listen to what we have to say.”   

Meg Briody, Head of Child and Youth Participation at Save the Children said:  

“This research reveals how little young people feel listened to by our nation’s politicians- and that needs to change. Children have strong opinions about the society they live in, and it’s up to adults to make sure we listen and address their wants and needs.  

“We are delighted to be working with so many expert organisations across the child rights, youth democracy and education sectors, as well as engaging with major political parties themselves, to bring this project to life. It’s fantastic to see the huge appetite for demystifying politics and increasing young people’s political literacy, which is crucial for engaging future generations of voters.”   

The ‘Our Generation. Our Vote’ coalition will be engaging with all major political parties in England and Wales throughout the project, to support them in the delivery of child-friendly manifestos and other resources, so that young people have access to the same information as adults ahead of the election. A big focus for the project will be on reaching young people from under-represented communities in politics who might be less likely to vote in the future.   

For further information about how schools and youth groups can sign up to take part in ‘Our Generation. Our Vote,’ click here.  

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