22 February 2023
On Saturday 18th February, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) organised a roundtable with youth representatives from the Back Youth Alliance (BYA), and Minister Stuart Andrew MP. This blog shares UK Youth BYA representative Kevin McKenna’s experience.
Kevin McKenna is 22 and originally from Newry in Northern Ireland, he is currently studying Politics and International Relations at University in London. Kevin explains his role in the BYA as ‘to represent UK Youth and the thousands of young people in the UK, and particularly in my home nation of Northern Ireland, who feel undervalued and underrepresented.’ Kevin says ‘I feel very passionate about the BYA, and feel the Government could learn a lot from this in terms of departments working together to provide better services and improving lives for young people.’ UK Youth works with a wide range of young people, and represent thousands of youth organisations in our network. We aim to promote the benefits of youth work, and provide young people with the opportunity to advocate for youth work to decision makers on a regular basis.
Kevin co-chaired the roundtable with Josie, the youth representative for BYA from the Duke of Edinburgh Award. He explains ‘the aim of the roundtable event was to discuss the National Youth Guarantee and how we as young people would like to see it changed and implemented as well as to discuss issues affecting young people, such as the cost of living crisis.’
The Minister listened to the view of young people on a range of different issues, and particularly about the National Youth Guarantee and cost of living crisis. Kevin says ‘The Minister would go over what they discussed and how DCMS could help, or very honestly would struggle to be able to help with. The main things that came across were empathy, sharing stories about his past working in the voluntary sector and honesty, telling us the challenges they will face in putting our arguments across such as capital funding and the Treasury’s view on this.’
We know these issues are having a huge impact on the youth sector, our recent blog on the National Youth Guarantee outlines what we would like to see happen for it to be successful. We have also recently launched our UK Youth Fund with Pears Foundation to support youth organisations through the cost of living crisis, it is great to see these issues being focused on by the Minister, and young people’s views being heard.
The Minister will take what was discussed at the event back to his department in Government. Kevin feels it would be good to see further roundtable events with other Ministers, he explains ‘we need the Minister to work with his colleagues in other departments and really stress how young people not only fall under DCMS, but Education, Justice and Health to name a few.’
Kevin adds ‘I would like to see another event with more Ministers involved, possibly in Parliament. This would be a very strong message by the government that young people and particularly those 18-25, who are the most disengaged voting group, that they do matter.’
Kevin would like to see ‘a strategy to change the lives of young people, for the better’ which is ‘important in a time where young people feel lied to, underrepresented, and cheated’. Kevin reflects on the event by saying ‘it really showed the true power of youth voice and how we should all stand with youth.’
We are extremely grateful to Kevin, and all of the young people in BYA who attended the roundtable to advocate for the issues facing young people with the Minister. It is vital that more opportunities for this direct engagement happen in future, and that young people are involved in decision making that impacts them at all levels, from local to national Government.