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Tag Archives: youth

I finished my official placement with the youth council at the end of June. I’m going to try to keep posting here unless the British Youth Council objects or finds another young person to take it over– because people are reading it, and I think it’s worth doing. Unfortunately, I’m now doing this under my own steam in my free time, so the posts might be a bit sporadic.

OK. This was written in response to a request from the charity Young Minds for writing on young people and mental health, but I think it’s relevant here too. Like some of my other posts, this is only tangentially related to youth politics. It’s very personal, much more so than anything else I’ve posted here. I want to post it for multiple reasons.

Firstly, and most simply, young people’s mental health is important, and one of the youth council’s manifesto points (“Recognise that our minds matter”: BYC manifesto 2010-12). Beyond that, there is a stigma attached to mental health problems, that we can begin to break down by discussing them openly. And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, because there’s a chance that one of the people who sees this will be a young person with similar issues to mine who might get something out of reading it.

Warning: This post includes discussion of self-harm and a reference to eating disorders. Read More »

Recently BYC volunteers went to the Youth Budget Conference, “Paying for it”, an event to discuss young people’s opinions on this year’s government budget. There was a panel who took questions, this was made up of MPs David Gauke, James Morris and Kate Green, Carl Emmerson (Deputy Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies), and James Cathcart (CEO of the British Youth Council). The event ended with Isaac Warburton (winner of the Citizenship Foundations “Chance to be Chancellor” competition) handing a Youth Budget Report giving the opinions of the young people involved in “Chance to be Chancellor” to the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury.

I found many of the opinions in the Youth Budget Report surprising. Sixty nine percent of young people involved in “Chance to be Chancellor” would cut more than the government to reduce spending and the deficit. I had assumed that since young people are so reliant on government services, they would be well aware of the impact of government cuts.

One of the British Youth Council’s priority campaigns, as chosen by young people, is “Save our services”, a campaign to reduce the impact of government cuts on youth services. Someone from the Citizenship Foundation, at the end of the event, admitted to us that the young people involved in the Youth Budget Report 2012 and “Chance to be Chancellor” competition were not a representative group of young people[1], which might explain the differences. As the report was only given to the government very shortly before the budget came into force, I doubt that there was time for it to be considered by the government. Otherwise, I might worry about which young people were allowed to speak for us all, and why.

The budget itself, which passed into law last Wednesday, was controversial because of the reduction of higher rate tax, at a time when ordinary people are facing severe cuts.[2] If anyone’s interested in more detail on the latest budget as a whole, I’d recommend the guardian’s diagram, or more detailed tables.


[1] It seemed to me that there was a surprisingly low number of Black and Minority Ethnic young people, young people from lower income families, and young people with disabilities at the event.

[2]A few links to give you an idea of the cuts I’m talking about.   Welfare Reform, children and people with disabilities or Sexual Health Services or EMA or charging people to use the Child Support Agency. These are just the ones I could find in a hurry – I’m sure there are more that I don’t know about, or couldn’t find a decent source for.

Beatbullying, a UK based anti-bullying charity, organised an on-line march against bullying last week. Thousands of people across the world took part, asking the UN to add the right to be safe from bullying to the Declaration on the Rights of the Child.

If the campaign is successful, this will be the first change to Rights of the Child in over a decade. Currently, these rights include the right to education, the right to relax and play, and the right to a home and family life. But, for millions of children, those rights are not a reality. So, is there any point adding bullying to the declaration? Or would it just become another ignored right?

We don’t even know how to recognise, let alone prevent bullying. Most schools, admittedly not all, already have some kind of anti-bullying program. Posters and talks, or a peer mentoring scheme, or a “safe room” for victims of bullying during lunch and breaks. But do any of these actually work? We don’t even know. So would a legal obligation to fund them improve things? Not necessarily.

But, then, nothing I campaign for is a perfect solution. I know that. Nothing I believe in can be proved without doubt. I know that too.  Why do I expect perfection from anti-bullying work, then? I’ve taken part in peer-mentoring schemes, I know they can help people, even if they don’t help everyone. Raising awareness of bullying might not stop bullying, but it might make it easier for victims / survivors to recognise what happened, and get help if they need it. I’m sure the same is true of other schemes, that I’ve not worked with.

All of this is important. Bullying is often seen as a trivial issue only affecting a small number of people. Unfortunately, that’s not true. About twenty children or young people commit suicide every year because of bullying[1], and nearly half f young people have been bullied at some point in their lives[2]. I want to do something about that, if I can.

By adding safety from bullying to the Rights of the Child, we raise the profile of this issue. It could force our government, and others, to fund anti-bullying schemes better. It could give children and young people a recourse, if their school or college doesn’t do anything to prevent bullying.

So, I signed Beatullying’s petition (http://www.beatbullying.org/bigmarch/), and I’m asking you to do the same. Because, yes, we all deserve the right to be safe from bullying.  Because I want our governments to be held accountable for stopping this. Because it’s a start.