Political parties in Wales need to give young people a voice

7 Apr 2016

[Gallwch ddarllen y blog yma yn y Gymraeg]

It’s no news to say that youth engagement in formal politics is in a pretty parlous state – particularly when it comes to turnout. Just 43% of 18-24 year olds voted in the last Westminster election: the gap between engagement in politics between young people and old people is growing, and will only get worse if urgent action isn’t taken.

In Wales, there are growing calls to diffuse this time-bomb of a growing generational gap. 

So we’ve launched six ‘youth pledges’ we want political parties in Wales to back, ahead of the Welsh Assembly election in just four weeks. 

Youth Promise: Getting Young People Involved in Democracyis ERS Cymru’s call to action for Welsh political parties in the run-up to May 5th.

We’re calling for parties to get behind a six key changes AMs can make over the next five years.

The calls are being supported by a range of youth organisations including Youth Cymru and NUS Wales, the two main youth organisations in Wales, as well as Llais Ifanc, Youth Cymru’s Young Leadership Panel and UK-wide democracy organisation Bite The Ballot.

What are the demands? We want parties to commit to:

  1. An independent National Youth Assembly for Wales
  2. Extending the vote to 16 and 17 year olds for local and Assembly elections
  3. Creating statutory Youth Mayors and Youth Councils for every local authority
  4. Giving the roles and responsibilities of school councils a statutory footing
  5. Requiring local authorities and educational bodies work together on voter registration drives
  6. Improving Citizenship Education by implementing the Donaldson Review’s recent recommendations

ERS Cymru will be writing to the six main party leaders this week to ask them to back the recommendations.

These six policies, if implemented, could make a huge difference to youth engagement in politics here in Wales. There is so much that needs to be done, but these would be an incredible start early on in the next Assembly, sending a strong message to young people that their voices matter and will be heard.

The need for reform

Wales has long needed a proper Youth Assembly like the other nations of the UK, and the creation of youth mayors would go a long way to improving the visibility of young people in politics here.

The Assembly will soon have the power to give 16 and 17 year olds the vote – something Scotland did last year after the incredible levels of engagement of young people the Scottish referendum. Alongside decent citizenship education, votes at 16 would be a massive boost to young people’s power over their own lives and futures. 

Strengthening school councils would go a long way to giving students across the country experience of how politics works at a really local level.

And there needs to be an enormous cross-organisational effort to get young people on the electoral register here in Wales – so many will be left voiceless if urgent action isn’t taken.

Finally, parties need to fully commit to implementing the recent Donaldson review recommendations to give young people in Wales the citizenship education they deserve.

Taken together, these policies are a recipe for a revolution in youth politics here in Wales, and we hope parties back our calls.

Read ERS Cymru’s Youth Pledge here (bilingual)

ERS Cymru will be releasing predictions in the coming two weeks predicting the average age of the new Assembly after May, and how many young people will be elected.

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