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My ask to all parties: listen to young people

2nd July 2024 by Jamie Masraff, Chief Executive, OnSide

New research by The Duke of Edinburgh shows that 80% of young people under 25 feel politicians listen to their age group the least. This is sad to hear and while I agree much more needs to be done, I have hope from seeing brilliant examples of youth participation that we’ve been lucky to be involved in during the past six weeks, and I thank the media for seeking their views in their election coverage.

Every time I visit a Youth Zone, I’m blown away by the young people I speak to. I’ve been proud to see Youth Zone members sharing their thoughts on the issues important to them; from NHS waiting lists to the environment.

Owen, a former member of Future, Barking and Dagenham Youth Zone, contributed brilliantly to a conversation on the Today programme, sharing how valuable Future has been to his local community. BBC North West visited HideOut Youth Zone in East Manchester to speak with members Mala, Dylan, James and Amy about their thoughts on the election. Amanda and Joseph from Manchester Youth Zone represented young people and asked a question to the panel at one of the election debates.

What these examples have shown me is that young people do care and have clear opinions, we just need to do a better job of making them feel that these opinions matter. As a youth organisation, if we don’t see opportunities out there for young people to be politically engaged, we need to create those spaces for them.

There have been some great examples of this over the election period. On Sunday Unitas, Barnet Youth Zone held a husting event for new voters, and I’m proud that OnSide was part of last night’s Back Youth Alliance ‘Youth Power hour’ event, with hosts Alastair Campbell and Kwajo Tweneboa, which was all about inspiring young people and educating them on how they can make a difference.

To whoever comes to power on the 5 July, you have a real opportunity to make a change and to create a better future for our young people. Polling by Opinium found that only 10% of 8–17-year-olds believe that politicians focus on the needs of young people when making decisions. I’d invite you to listen to young people and take their views seriously. We’re fortunate to have a generation of passionate young people with brilliant minds – we need to utilise their opinions. You can do this by visiting youth-focussed spaces like youth centres to hear what young people have to say. I’d happily welcome you to one of the Youth Zones in our Network.

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