It’s time for the UK Government to engage with young people

Senior leaders from over 80 organisations across the youth, education, health, funding and civil society sectors have today called on the UK Government to hold a dedicated press conference for young people to answer their questions about the Covid-19 pandemic and to allow under-18s to submit questions to the daily press conference. These organisations, and over 150 of their youth representatives, include Unicef UK, Girlguiding, Teach First and British Red Cross.

Children and young people are feeling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic – on their mental health, their education, their hopes for the future and much more. They are also making a difference to us all – by staying at home, supporting loved ones, and volunteering in communities. At this time, more than ever, young people’s contribution must be recognised, their voices heard and their questions answered.

After constructive initial engagement with Number 10,  #iwill campaign partners are ready to work with the Government to ensure that young people emerge from this crisis ready to continue their lives as active, positive citizens.

Read the Open Letter

Dr Rania Marandos, CEO of Step Up To Serve, which coordinates the #iwill campaign, says: 

“Young people have so much to bring to the table as engaged citizens. By working closely with them, we benefit daily from their perspectives, insights and passion. The UK Government has much to gain from listening to young people’s voices during this crisis.

It has been inspiring to come together with so many leading organisations and young people, from all corners of the UK, to sign this open letter. In these challenging times, it is essential that we continue to collaborate with young people and with each other.”

Sacha Deshmukh, Executive Director at Unicef UK, said:

“The coronavirus pandemic is having a widespread impact on children, yet too often they are proving to be forgotten and their voices unheard in this crisis.

“We know children are worrying about their friends, families and futures and they have a right to be heard in decisions that affect their lives. By addressing the nation’s children directly, and taking the time to answer their questions and listen to their concerns, the government will provide much-needed reassurance.

“It’s vital that the government demonstrate that they are putting children’s best interests at the heart of decision making, both during the immediate response to the crisis and in building a better future for young people in post-pandemic Britain.”

Katrina Lambert, 19, #iwill Ambassador and Girlguiding Scotland Advocate says,

“Young people from all across the UK are concerned for what the future holds. Yet, as is too often the case, our voices are not being recognised. A crisis shouldn’t provide an excuse to ignore young people. It should create an urgency to include us. 

It has been fantastic to see leaders from New Zealand to my home of Scotland lead the way by speaking directly to young people and answering our concerns. The UK government must do the same to make sure that we are not forgotten.”

Angela Salt, Chief Executive of Girlguiding UK says,

“As well as the immediate impact on children and young people’s lives, this crisis could affect them long into their futures. Girlguiding is very concerned that the specific challenges girls and young women face today are being exacerbated. 

Young women in our youth panel called for this press conference last month. It’s crucial that we all listen to the voices of girls and young women and all young people, recognise the breadth of their concerns and act to support them.”

Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair of youth-led charity, the British Youth Council, says,

“By not opening up press conferences to young people, we risk excluding some of our most thoughtful voices, as well as setting up a generation of young people to feel they are not valued as democratic citizens. If the UK government commits now to engaging with youth we will gain their unique insight in answering the challenges that we face, in this crisis and in the time ahead.”

Alicia Jones, 17, #iwill Champion and Member Of Youth Parliament, says,

“Being a young carer, I know full well that young people’s contributions are far too often invisible and ignored in society. However, being a Member of Youth Parliament I also know what can happen when the government listens to young people and gives us the chance we deserve, as when our voices are heard we can work together and achieve amazing things to improve the lives of young people.”