The UK Youth Parliament is taking five main issues to the green benches of Westminster on the 9th of November, ranging from calls to clamp down on systemic knife crime, widen the democratic process and improve mental health services for people of all ages.

This year, over one million individuals aged between 11-18 took part in the Make Your Mark consultation — the highest number recorded since its conception eight years ago. The survey gives young people the chance to identify which key issues they would like the Youth Parliament to discuss at their Commons debate with influential political figures early next month.

Not only does the figure reveal an increasing engagement with political issues among the country’s youth, but the top five prioritised issues should be regarded as an accurate reflection of key political and social considerations held by young people.

The Make Your Mark ballot gives those of secondary school age a rare opportunity to directly influence a parliament and government that often ignore their political voices. For the second year in a row, votes at 16, mental health support and calls for an end to knife crime have been among the key issues demanding immediate political attention.

Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council, the charity which commissioned the consultation, said:

‘It’s phenomenal to see so many young people take part in this year’s Make Your Mark survey, in which we had the highest number of young people ever taking part. Young people from across the UK voted in record numbers to ensure their voices were heard, and decision makers must take note of their priorities’.

With the result of Brexit now only starting to take tangible hold of British society as the deadline of March draws ever nearer, this plea to widen the democratic process is a reasonable undertaking, and one that MPs and Speaker of the House John Bercow should pay considerable attention to when the Youth Parliament joins them in the Commons. It is a clear example of young people recognising their rightful capacity for political participation by demonstrating justifiable anger when life-changing decisions are made on their behalf.

Joining these issues this year is a call for equal pay and equal work among adults, as well as a desire to tackle UK homelessness, which is rapidly on the rise. Homelessness has risen for the eighth year in a row as of 2018, while anecdotal incidents of knife crime fill news headlines almost daily. The Office for National Statistics reported almost 40, 000 knife offences between June 2017 and 2018.

Brahmpreet Kaur Gulati, speaking on behalf of the UK Youth Parliament, deplored the Government’s impotency on the issue of tackling knife crime, including the ‘threat of knife culture’ that lives at the root of the problem. Though the debates will be concluded with a vote to decide which issues should become their priority campaign in 2018, there is no doubt that a pledge to confront the country’s violent knife addiction will remain on the Youth Council’s agenda.

Tangible evidence that members of the Youth Parliament have been listened to will not simply result from John Bercow’s presence at the debate, but from the bipartisan political support that should follow. This should not be a tokenistic event, but one treated with due gravitas by those in positions of power, as MPs recognise that young people are not politically irrelevant but an active force in domestic politics.

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