Taking young people to Parliament to have their voices heard can be a transformative experience. And that’s just what we did last week. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Youth Affairs meets several times a year to discuss issues affecting young people. They write a report based on young people’s views and it is debated in parliament.

The young people we took were from a range of backgrounds and experiences – from the inner city to rural, with lived experience of everything from asylum seeking to knife crime and mental health. All of them came through Creative Youth Network projects and our partners. 

One had not even been to London before and so the sight of the houses of parliament was one to behold  - although the well-armed policemen and women were also a topic of conversation.

Inside, the group joined about 80 others from around the country to debate and discuss the issues they were facing and they felt were important. The sumptuous surroundings belied the seriousness of debate around climate change, votes at 16, hate crime, play and mental health. All of the comments were thoughtful, passionate and considered. The most powerful comments came from those (including one of our group) who had lived experience of knife crime and homelessness. 

Solutions were offered too – the vital role of youth centres and youth workers came across again and again; the need for more investment in support for those suffering from isolation and school exclusion and the need for training in recognising autism were all made.  

The demand for action on climate change was almost universal with a 12-year-old articulating how they would be living with the consequences made by politicians today. 

What came across more than anything was the passion and thoughtfulness of all the comments.  Young people are often dismissed by the rest of society for, at best, their naivete and at worst, their hostility to adults and the community. But the young people who attended were anything but. They are the future leaders of our communities and our country and we should be grateful for their concern and commitment to their causes.

What engaging in democracy means to young people

My highlight of the day was getting the courage to stand up and speak in front of so many people, getting my point across about knife crime, A topic that means a lot to me and I’ve been thinking about for many years. It was an amazing experience which will stay with me for the rest of my life. - Nabiil

On the train home I heard three comments that told me how much the trip had meant. One young person – an asylum seeker – talked about how he now felt listened to for the first time at the highest level. One young person who was wondering how to give back to their community said “I might try to become an MP!”  and one person said “I was so proud of myself for going somewhere I’ve never been before and standing up in front of a crowd to make my point”. 

We're grateful to be able to support young people in taking advatange of these opportunities to engage and be listened to, and we're thankful to be supported by funders such as Paul Hamlyn Foundation in providing even more chances for young people across the South West.

The work we do at Creative Youth Network might set a young person on a trajectory to becoming leader of our country or it might build their confidence – either way is transformational. 

Support young people to gain more transformational opportunities: 

Please select a donation amount: *
Donate