A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.
The sun is out and the taxi driver who picked me up from the station this morning tells me that people are still complaining. I wonder who those people are? Probably not young people, who, according to the research and polling company, Britainthinks, understand the challenges that face them and want to ‘give back’ in this ‘austerity era’.
“Contrary to some expectations, today’s teenagers don’t all want to be pop stars and footballers. Being famous and on the telly and owning designer brands are dismissed by nearly all in our survey. They are not afraid of hard work either,” says Debora Mattinson, cofounder of Britainthinks.
This is no surprise to us here at the North West Regional Youth Work Unit and, I suspect, to you.
We saw this focus on ‘giving back’ in action in late April when nearly 100 young people from across the North West region gathered at Brathay Hall in Cumbria. All MYPs, members of youth councils and youth mayors came together to create a manifesto for Youthforia. They worked very hard, played, and didn’t sleep that much, but, hey, they created a manifesto!
A manifesto for the North West
Why did Youthforia want to develop a manifesto? Because (to be blunt) they are fed up with being asked their views on the same topics over and over again and not seeing, or being made aware of, any decisions or changes being made as a result.
Rather than give in to consultation fatigue they decided to be proactive and work together to decide which issues are important to them and how they feel about them. For that weekend in April, Brathay saw feverish activity and discussion as the ideas and views were honed and put to the vote.
The result? The first publication of a manifesto for Youthforia. Want to know what young people in the North West think about equality, education, politics and democracy, leisure and facilities for young people, public transport, the environment, youth (un)employment or health? Some of it can be found on our website. Youthforia will use the manifesto to inform responses to public policy and to explain their position on these issues to other organisations and individuals.
Another look at the Britainthinks survey reveals that major democratic deficit exists.
Only a third of young people agree that a political party could help them to achieve their aims and 55% think they have an obligation to vote (unlike almost three-quarters of parents).
“It’s a generation in danger of giving up on party politics,” Mattinson says. “Young people to whom we spoke have little faith in politicians.”
If we continue to ask young people’s views on topics such as transport, education and health and then continue to ignore them or not respond to suggestions, is it surprising young people are a little fed up? Combine this with the drip of ‘revelations’ about the establishment and the political system and it is no wonder that many young people do not see an answer in voting and party politics.
That leaves an interesting question: where, if not through the established routes, will young people take their interest and their passion?
North West Regional Youth Work Unit