Young people, supported by The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, have today launched a manifesto for change that they believe will best help the UK’s youth recover from the pandemic. Our Future, Unlimited: A Youth Manifesto for Covid Recovery calls for more specialist mental health support in schools, action on climate change and a new ‘future generations’ law to ensure that any proposed new laws are assessed for how they would affect young people’s lives in the future.
The manifesto comes as new research by The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) reveals that young people have become more interested in politics, education and the environment since Covid-19, yet feel shut out of political decisions that affect their lives.
Three-quarters (75%) of 14-24-year-olds feel politicians rarely listen to the views of young people, if at all, and more than two thirds (68%) believe politicians make decisions with little or no consideration on the impact they might have on future generations.
Compared to before the first lockdown, many young people are more politically engaged, with almost four in ten (39%) more interested in politics now than before the pandemic. Yet most do not see youth perspectives represented in national or local politics; 86% say they rarely or never see people under 30 in positions of power.
Hana, 16, said: “I think, especially in politics and with everything that’s happening, young people don’t have a say in decisions that are deciding their future. We need to be heard because our opinions do matter. We have good ideas and others could benefit from listening.”
Sian McQuillan, 23, said: “When decisions are being made that will have an impact in future years, it is so important that young people are included in these discussions. Young people now are the ones who will be in positions of power in future years and will have to make decisions based on what has come before, so it is so important that their voices are heard on issues that will have an impact upon them in later life.”
More than half of young people (51%) identified education, experience and learning as one of the three most important issues the UK government must prioritise for young people. This was followed by protecting the environment and addressing climate change (45%), health and wellbeing (43%) and employment and training (43%).
The DofE is hosting a series of #ListenWithoutLimits conversations between high profile individuals and young people to discuss the manifesto and how young people can be better involved in decision-making. Politicians including Mother of the House Harriet Harman MP and the Children’s Minister Vicky Ford, businesses such as Tik Tok, ASDA and Timpson, environmentalist and TV presenter Chris Packham, comedian Rosie Jones and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson have been among those taking part.
Ruth Marvel, Chief Executive of the DofE, said: “Youth perspectives must be at the heart of any discussions about helping young people rebuild their lives and shaping a post-Covid world where all generations can flourish. Every day at the DofE we see what young people are capable of and how much they have to contribute to society.
“There is a new energy among young people who want to make a difference and have their voices heard. But that energy must be actively encouraged and meaningfully engaged by decision-makers across politics and business. If we are to have a world that works for young people, consistent listening and learning from their ideas is critical.”
The pandemic has taken a particularly heavy toll on young people, who now face rising mental health issues, record unemployment and deepening in equalities. But the YouGov poll commissioned by the DofE also reveals important positives young people have taken from the crisis. More than 70% of young people are now more appreciative of nature and the outdoors than before the pandemic. More than half (54%) are more appreciative of extra-curricular activities, such as sports, creativity and outdoor learning, nearly 40% are more interested in taking part in campaigns and almost a third (30%) are more interested in volunteering.
Ruth Marvel said: “We must all heed young people’s call to prioritise their education, experience and learning. There is clear evidence to show how extracurricular learning–the sorts of activities and experiences supported by the DofE – boost academic achievement, improve wellbeing and contribute to young people succeeding in employment. Young people across the UK have suffered because of Covid– making sure every single one has regular access to extracurricular learning is a critical part of their recovery.”
The DofE believes the Government could engage young people better in future decision-making by, for example:
– being required by law to hold ‘Future Generation Assemblies’ – citizens’ assemblies that involves a representative group of children and young people to discuss specific issues at national and local levels.
– ensuring all new policies and laws that will affect children go through Child Rights Impact Assessment, involving young people.
– allowing young people to vote at 16.
– using social media to share consultations and producing more accessible documents that young people can easily understand.