Moving On sent student contributor Katy Daly to the Houses of Commons to watch Members of the UK Youth Parliament debate issues which affect young people today and reported on the proceedings. Find out what she had to say.
In November 2014, 285 MYPs (Members of Youth Parliament) gathered at the House of Commons to debate five issues put forward in the Make Your Mark ballot, held in August 2014.
Chaired by John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons the debate kicked off with a speech by the Leader of the House of Commons, William Hague, who himself entered politics at the age of 16.
The subject of the national minimum wage was first up for debate. Arguing in favour was Vikram Patel (West Midlands) who said, “The law makes a baseless distinction on the grounds of age, with a 16 year old getting half the wage of someone 10 years older to do the same job.” This was later voted as the UK-wide issue to be campaigned on.
Other issues debated were exam resits, work experience and careers advice, mental health services and votes for 16 and 17 year olds. The issue which received the most votes was ‘Mental health services should be improved with our help’.
MYP Francesca Reed argued that mental health education should be part of the National Curriculum, stating that, “75 per cent of adult mental health problems start before the age of 18, with over 840,000 young people suffering from mental health issues.”
Between debates I grabbed some YMPs who happily shared their views with me. On getting involved in politics and becoming an MYP, Rose Warburton aged 16, explained that she was “Looking for something bigger than the school counsel in order to help more people. My school came to me with the opportunity and I took it”. Did they agree with William Hague, that young people shouldn’t take notice of claims that you have to come from a particular background to succeed in politics? “When politicians see people like the UK Youth Parliament they realize that we have the same ideas and sometimes better ideas than they do.”
Another issue debated was the availability and quality of work experience for young people. Chloe Stevens, MYP, East of England, made the point that in 2012, work experience was made optional – now 57 per cent of companies complain that young people lack work skills.
Being an MYP provides the opportunity for 11-18 year olds to express their views, use their voice to make changes in society and develop wider skills, such as confidence and authority. You can find out about becoming a youth MP and all the work that they do at the UK youth parliament site.
Written by student contributor Katy Daly, Finham Park School
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