Written by Maya Hattenstone, UK Youth Voice member for London
Young people need a voice. And UK Youth gave me mine. As a shy autistic girl growing up, I would never have believed that I’d have the confidence or ability to address public meetings. But being part of UK Youth Voice has made me believe in myself in a way I never had before.
Last year I attended the Labour Party conference as part of UK Youth Voice, and we exchanged views with the likes of Andy Burnham, Luciana Berger and Ed Miliband. At the end we presented them with our UK Youth Voice Manifesto to ensure that young people are at the heart of Brexit. UK Youth has made me feel relevant, listened to, and an important part of this country’s future.
There are 5.4 million teenagers in the UK making up around 9 per cent of the population, yet astonishingly the youth sector earns just one per cent of all charities’ total income. Meanwhile, only six per cent of all registered charities include “young people” in their mission statement or activities. Equally alarming, council funding for youth services has plummeted by almost two-thirds (62 per cent), from just over £1bn in 2008-09 to £388m in 2016-17. These depressing figures make the work done by UK Youth even more important.
With UK Youth sitting at the heart of a national network of members, supporting an estimate of over one and a half million young people across the UK, no other youth organisation has it’s reach or breadth. Nobody is better placed than UK Youth to make the case for the one million plus 16-25 year-olds in the UK not in work, training or full time education, and to tell the country’s policy makers that this is unacceptable.
“At school, many of us we were given a sense that A levels and university were the only way forward.”
The brilliant thing about UK Youth is that it shows us there are so many other ways to get ahead, from apprenticeships to the skills development programmes it runs in citizenship, STEMS, arts, wellbeing, and enterprise. It’s here to support young people in all walks of life, whether they are struggling with loneliness, mental health problems or making ends meet.
UK Youth wants all young people, regardless of their background or circumstance, to have the opportunity to build a brighter future. And it doesn’t just talk the talk, it walks the walk. That’s why 52 per cent of young people on their programmes are from the 30 per cent most deprived areas in the UK. When you’re involved with UK Youth and it’s Youth Voice programme, you feel like you belong to one big community.
Unity is so important for us in the youth sector, especially when we are under attack and our funding is being slashed. As the legendary Hogwarts head Albus Dumbledore said in Harry Potter: “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.” A strong UK Youth enables youth clubs across the country to unite and create a better future for all of us.