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Party leaders urged to debate with young people ahead of election

Liberal Democrats say they would be “delighted” to take part in an election debate with and about children and young people.

24/05/24

Party leaders urged to debate with young people ahead of election

Political leaders have been challenged to debate issues affecting children and young people ahead of the general election.

The challenge came at event organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children (APPGC) to improve policy and services by basing them on the views and experiences of children, young people and families.

Nearly 40 young people and parents exchanged ideas at the event last week – before the election was called – with a panel representing all the main political parties, including Tim Loughton (Conservatives), Ashley Dalton (Labour), Munira Wilson (Lib Dems) and Ria Patel (Green Party).

“This generation knows the power of politicians, and they want to be more involved,” Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza, also at the event to highlight findings from her Big Ambition survey showing that only one in five children and young people feels heard by those who run the country.

Children and young people speaking at the event expressed frustration at not being involved in decision-making. “Raising the importance of youth voice has become a broken record when it’s not followed up with action,” one young person said.

Over 150 attendees listened as children and young people shared their experiences of children’s social care, special educational needs and disabilities, mental health, and the importance of their voices being taken into account.

The young speakers shared personal experiences and stories underscoring decision-makers’ failure to act to improve existing policy and services. Speaking of children in care being placed far from their homes, schools and networks of support, one young person asked: “How long is it for things to change? How much more instability is it going to take?”

“This is the time to work together across the generations and geographies to address some of the long-standing issues in this country,” Anna Feuchtwang, CEO of the National Children’s Bureau (NCB), which coordinated the event on behalf of the APPGC.

Party leaders were challenged to take part in a leadership debate featuring children and young people during the election campaign, with Munira Wilson from the Lib Dems saying her party’s leader would be “delighted” to take part. She added, “I find it terrifying standing in front of a group of children or young people, much more so than standing up in the House of Commons chamber, because they ask the most incisive questions and get to the heart of the matter.”

Labour’s Ashley Dalton said she wanted to see the end of “siloed work within government departments” to improve the lives of children, while the Green Party said it would listen to children and young people who are experiencing a wide range of interlinked issues and take into account all the barriers they face.

Also at the event, the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) launched a new report on amplifying children’s voice, the first in a series of deep dives into key areas of policy and practice.

The report highlights NCB’s unique research, evidence and experience, and suggests ways to meaningfully include children and young people’s voices, insights and opinions in decision making.

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