The Government will relaunch and refresh UK Youth Parliament in the new year.
This followed a year of review and consultation by the DCMS Youth Directorate of its Youth Engagement [with Government] strategy and grants programme. It published its conclusions in a tender document which as part of an invitation for proposals to refresh and relaunch the UK Youth Parliament (UKYP) brand, integrate the Youth Policy Development Group and introduce a number of new measures to “increase engagement with young people across the UK”. The aim, in the new year, is to build the programme “into an established part of the policymaking and parliamentary process, with direct access to decision makers, and improve feedback and recognition to young people”. This is an exciting opportunity to amplify youthvoice and participation to a new level. Does it go far enough and how will civil society and youth sector respond?
The Government’s new agenda “aims to build the UKYP into an established part of the policymaking and parliamentary process”, and sets out a number of new priorities to increase its influence as well as grow the number of voices being heard through the framework of the Youth Parliament brand – or UKYP Plus.
The new two-year £750,000 grant, with additional support from parliament, will support a partnership with the youth sector which will unify the current youth engagement programmes – the UK Youth Parliament (UKYP 11-18yrs) and the Youth Policy Development Group (16-25 yrs) under one banner, alongside several complementary pathways. There is scope to widen access to more young people with user-experience and expertise in specific policy areas like health, education and poverty, and to continue to benefit from the input of former former MYPs in other roles, mirroring the added value of a two-chamber approach which is found in many parliamentary democracies.. Will organisations bidding for the contract seize this opportunity to reboot the programme?
Although the new grant is a slight increase on the previous couple of years (£233,000 and £100,000 per programme) and there is an additional £80,000 for research, it is still short of the £500,000 a year offered in 2011/12 when the model was last reformed.
Purpose and Activities
There are four key objectives: 1/ to engage young people in a “democratic process”, 2/ to enable young people to “express their voices” on issues that matter to them, 3/ to engage them at an “early stage of developing policy” affecting them, and 4/ to “test specific government proposals and policy”.
The tender lists 20 specific expected activities to achieve this, and pointedly invited organisations/coalitions to submit “new and creative” ways to deliver them.
To widen the participation net, the tender now includes a request to establish a “pool/network of young people from existing youth voice groups to work in collaboration” with the programme, recognising the growth in the number of existing and new youth voice partnerships and advisory panels who have the potential to bring additional voices and research to the table. The tender now calls for “a range of engagement options to increase outreach including surveys and polling; increased outreach work to engage with more marginalised young people and those that may not normally take part in the UKYP, including creating accessible content; greater focus on facilitating join up between APPGs/Select Committees and the UKYP; and greater focus on digital communications/digital engagement platform to effectively engage with large numbers of young people.
There is also a specific call for “support, advertising and promotion of new areas to sign up” . There are many local authorities in England who dont take up their seat allocation.
A Youth Steering Group will “oversee and advise on” the UKYP retaining the principle of representation of #youthvoice #youthchoice influence and leadership in the programmes continuous development, which will now benefit from the input of a external evaluation.
Young people need to be heard urgently on the challenges facing young people today, and the consequences tomorrow. The latest UK Youth Parliament debate in the House of Commons (Nov 22) voted on the Cost of Living and Health as their campaign priority for 2023. The specific measure in the motion “UK and local government should support young people
affected by food poverty with access to a universal support package.”
This is just one of a packed policy agenda for young people, debated and campaigned on by the Youth Parliament since it was established over 20 years ago, climate change, mental health, education for life, equal rights, cost of living, employment, to name but a few. The quality of their future lives depends on the extent to which their voices are amplified, heard and responded to in the national debate. Representative youthvoice could do with a boost to its visibility, proportionately reported by the media, given some space and support to develop, and then responded to by decision-makers.
There is a growing list of other interested parties who are lobbying on pay, the cost of living, health services – all issues widely reported by the media and discussed at Cabinet level. Yet young people dont have a fulltime coordinating minister or representation in the Cabinet. The DCMS blueprint represents a commitment to a more active and inclusive role for a youthled democratic dialogue with parliament and government, nationally, regionally and locally.
Despite this, the DCMS blueprint represents a fresh opportunity to back youth who feel increasingly marginalised in these testing times. I hope what emerges will inspire and attract even more investment, not just for youth engagement, but in delivering policies and services that respond to the issues young people raise.
A invitation has been made to strengthen and deepen the mandate, credibility, and leverage of the youth parliament, but I would have liked to see more detail on the role of government in this partnership. What will be the arrangements to meet expectations, to listen, respond and feed back to young people, and how will they effectively co-ordinate across departments and reach cabinet level? Compared with investment in Youth Parliaments/Assemblies in the devolved nations, the grant amount is still relatively low and less that when the Youth Parliament was established. Compared to other high profile youth programme grants announced in recent months (multi-million) it could have been much more.
Having said that I like the fact that this is an ambitious agenda, building on foundations yet listening to consultation and inviting fresh ideas. The tender process is earlier and longer than usual to give organisations time to plan how to achieve this There is scope to widen representation to include other voices, benefit from user-experience, continue to benefit from alumni expertise. A continuous development approach could attract complementary investment from private and voluntary sector partners to fully exploit the initiative’s potential.
It may be some time before a government with cross-party support will match the scale of secure multi-million pound investments in Youth Social Action/#iwillmovement and the National Citizenship Service , but perhaps now we are one step closer to a embedded Youth Parliament with Royal Charter status.” James Cathcart, Director YVH
You can read the full tender document here :UK Youth Parliament Grant 2023-25 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)