The young people of this country have shown what matters to them most: better race relations and support for those suffering with mental health issues

 

The Youth Parliament, run by young people for young people, aims to empower young people and give those under-25 a chance to get involved in decision-making and become more active locally, nationally and internationally. Members of the Youth Parliament organise and run events in their local area to address issues that affect young people.

On the 13th of November a debate was held, chaired by Rt Hon John Bercow MP, during which 279 Members of the Youth Parliament debated and voted on which issues should be prioritised in the 2016 campaign. It was decided that race and religious discrimination should be the focal issue for the UK Youth Parliament’s national campaign and the issue of mental health was chosen as the priority for the UKYP campaign in England.

The votes cast were:

UK-wide:

–        Working together to combat racism and religious discrimination: 155

–        Everyone should be paid at least the Living Wage: 117

Devolved:

–       Mental health services should be improved with our help: 176

–         A curriculum to prepare us for life: 110

–         Make public transport cheaper, better and accessible for all: 33

These issues were chosen during the annual UK Youth Parliament Make Your Mark Ballot by 969,992 young people across the UK. It was decided that an emphasis should be placed on combatting discrimination particularly against those who are Muslim or Jewish.

The Speaker Rt Hon John Bercow MP, who presided over by the debates said: ‘Welcoming the Youth Parliament for their annual sitting has become one of the House of Commons’ most pleasant traditions.  Almost a million young people across the United Kingdom participated in this year’s vote, and I am pleased that they are taking advantage of the opportunity to make their voices heard in the heart of democracy in ever increasing numbers’.

On the topic of ‘improving mental health services with our help’ 17-year-old Namir Chowdhury, from the West Midlands, said: ‘Again, MYPs have realised just how important mental health is; raising awareness and the provision of school counsellors are examples of invaluable asset with the potential to benefit so many lives. The fact that one in every four are directly affected by a lack of mental wellbeing and millions more indirectly, as well as increasingly limited funding,  shows how big our task is, but I have faith that this inspirational group of young people will champion this movement. It’s a proud day for UK Youth Parliament, mental health awareness, and this entire generation!’

UKYP states: ‘We believe that more efforts must be made to ensure that we work together to combat racism and other forms of racially motivated hatred amongst young people; and ensure young people know the dangers of such hatred’.

Statistics were published by UKYP in order to emphasise the increase in hate crimes based on race or religion. Racist hate crimes, for example, have risen by 15 per cent since 2014 and hate crimes based on religious discrimination have risen by 43 per cent in the same period.

UKYP suggest various tactics to combat this issue both on a national level and local level. For example, they emphasise that it is simply not good enough to have legislation and strategies if, on the ground, racial and religious hate crimes are increasing each year. Therefore, they feel that the government needs to do more to ensure that its integration and equality strategies are implimented in an effective way. On a local level, UKYP stresses the importance of ensuring racial and religious diversity is celebrated within schools as a way of educating students about equality and respect.

On the topic of racial and religious discrimination, Shamim Miah, aged 18 from the West Midlands, said: ‘My motion on race and religious discrimination was just passed as the new national campaign for UK Youth Parliament 2016!  From growing up in a community constantly belittled and stifled by limitations, today’s success makes me feel I have achieved a landmark and represented my community to the absolute fullest’.

 

Sources:

http://www.ukyouthparliament.org.uk/news/uk-youth-parliament-to-campaign-against-race-and-religious-discrimination

http://www.ukyouthparliament.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Make-Your-Mark-Ballot-Campaign-Idea-Tackling-Racism-and-Religious-Hatred.pdf