Wales is being left behind in its Youth. Our nation is the only one in the UK without a Youth Democratic system. The UK Youth Parliament is in use in England, Scotland & even over the sea in Northern Ireland. As well as this, we see a Young Scottish Parliament flourishing every year. Watching Michael Sheen’s journey in the Chartists shoes and the following panel discussion on Democracy, I couldn’t help but think that there is a problem with Welsh Democracy. The Welsh Government caused extreme controversy with the closure of Funky Dragon – which enabled many youngsters from different backgrounds across Wales to develop skills and learn new things – including having Welsh Members of Youth Parliament (MYPs). So, what is the solution to this? Wales needs a Youth Democratic system – something I have proposed to many AMs and recently the First Minister, Leader of the Opposition and the Secretary of State for Wales. I have proposed the concept of a Youth Welsh Assembly to benefit Wales now – but also to benefit the future generations of our country.
Now, you may say that the Welsh Government has other problems to deal with. More and more devolution is given to the Assembly, most recently in the St David’s Day Agreement by the Prime Minister. So, why can’t Cathays Park devolve power and influence to the next leaders of Welsh business, politics and other key aspects of our modernising world? The Youth Assembly’s benefits would be endless. Currently, thousands of young people across Wales cannot experience the developing aspects of politics.
However, there are of course many opportunities through many charities and organisations to visit the Assembly and numerous committees and plenary meetings. This is something I advocate strongly, but young people want responsibility and the ability to represent people as Members of the Youth Assembly (MYAs). These MYA are the voice of 60 constituencies and the young, developing individuals in specific areas. This responsibility that is given to the elected 60 MYA is power and influence – devolved from the Welsh Assembly Government. Even further, these 60 MYA aren’t the peak of power for young people. The democratically elected MYA are the voice of young people – their title is the mechanism for change in their local communities and areas. The Youth Assembly can enable the future generations of our great and passionate nation to use their energy for the stepping stones for future decision making – which can be developed in the Youth Assembly – working with other young people, listening to their concerns and bringing about true social change, not just waving their MYA title in the air. There are topics chosen at the ballot box by young people across Wales, which are finalised down to two major issues for the Youth Assembly to focus on after the Annual debate. The funding of the programme would come from the Welsh Government. The funding for the UKYP is £666,000 from the British Youth Council and a grant from the Department of Education. With 250-350 MYPs, the cost of 60 YAMs would be around 25% of this cost, totalling around £120,000 per annum.
After the Scottish referendum we saw a surge of young people across the UK, many in Wales, become involved in Youth Politics. In Scotland, England and Northern Ireland they are able to express their views in the UKYP scheme – in Wales we are left to ponder how relevant our voices are to the discussions.
Michael Sheen’s documentary was fascinating and relevant to the current state of disbelief the people of Wales have in themselves and their ability to change their communities for the better. It is the same story as usual – Wales and its people do not have the self-esteem and positivity to move forward and achieve bigger and better things. I and others are tired of the same old rhetoric, which leaves us still pondering how successful we could have been with industry and other aspects of our culture and work. The Youth Assembly is a positive step to prepare Wales and its young people for the national and international stage – to play a part in politics, in business, in industry, in education, in social reform and in real change for the benefit of the current generations, and the ones that will follow us with great passion.
The UK Youth Parliament has been supported by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Speaker John Bercow, Deputy PM Nick Clegg and countless other in politics as well as businessmen and women across the UK. The success of the Youth Assembly is inevitable, with positive change for our passionate young people. The UKYP had over half a million people hit the ballot box to vote for their MYPs in 2008. This statistic is unbelievable. The Youth Assembly will also be the best mechanism to transfer issues to the Welsh Government from young people. The Government announced plans to put sex and relationships education as a statutory part of the curriculum as a direct result of UK Youth Parliament campaign in 2008. The potential is clear for the Youth Assembly.
The Youth Assembly is a vital idea to our democracy in Wales. We can move on from the past and focus on the future. Wales is being left behind in its Youth and this has the power to change that. It is a political issue, a social issue, a generation issue – a national issue. We as young people can change all of the underachievement of the past and make sure Wales is a great success in every aspect of society in the future. Wales is a proud nation, one that is developing and getting better, but we are still pondering the past, whereas we should be working in the present to prepare for the future.
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