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How we created the Youth section on our manifesto tracker

Posted in  by Leon Prescod
September 4, 2020

At Vote for Policies, our mission is to increase voter turnout.  We provide services that aim to help everyone become better informed and more involved in our democracy. 

Our Tracker monitors the progress of promises made by the government in their election manifesto, and provides tools and resources for people to get involved with issues they care about.  We’ve teamed up with the British Youth Council to offer a specific focus on the policies young people care about most (this post explains why).  Our Youth section pulls together these policies to make it simple to see what action the government is taking on issues that are important to young people.

To identify the policies young people care about, we looked at the ten topics on the ballot paper for the 2020 Make Your Mark public vote.  In previous years, this has been the largest consultation of its kind. In 2019, over 800,000 11 to 18-year-olds voted to choose which issues would go forward to form the basis of campaigning by members of the Youth Parliament in the coming year.  Due to COVID-19, 2020 was the first time the vote took place online only. We went through the government’s manifesto promises and selected policies aligned with or related to the ten issues young people voted on.  Those policies make up our Youth section.

This blog post shows how we arrived at the 44 manifesto policies in the Youth section. We'll look at each of the 10 priority issues from the Make Your Mark vote, understand more about what they mean according to the more detailed UK Youth Parliament manifesto, and then say which government policies we think are most relevant (and why).

It's worth emphasising that inclusion of these policies in our Youth section does not imply that the government has satisfied the demands of young people. Indeed, often there will be no action towards meeting those demands, and sometimes the government acts in direct opposition to what young people are asking for. The Tracker simply looks at progress on promises in the government's manifesto, and in this case we're looking at policies of particular relevance to young people. We're hoping to spark debate, increase accountability, and make it easier for young people to access policy information that really matters to them.

Let's go through the ten priority issues one by one...

#1. Support Our Mental Health

Summary from the UK Youth Parliament manifesto:

“We call on the government to:

Protect the budget for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), commiting to greater investment in the Health and Social Care budget, and ensure that services which target specific issues are funded proportionally to their usage.

Provide sufficient in-school counselling services for all young people and improve service signposting.

Young people should be provided with an accessible and easy to use reporting system so that they can report malpractice and ensure young people’s voices are included in shaping CAMHS in future.”

Our analysis

There were no government policies directly addressing the Youth Parliament issues.  Mental health has become increasingly prominent in recent years as a political issue, but it seems the focus is not being put on mental health services for young people with anything like the urgency that they themselves feel is required.  After some discussion, we included the policy on maintenance grants for student nurses because it does provide an additional allowance for mental health nursing students, which is at least some acknowledgement of the need for an increased budget (although not specifically related to youth services). 

Policies we included

#2. Free University

Summary from the UK Youth Parliament manifesto:

“We believe that university is a gateway to success in life and should be freely available to all. The government should invest in the young people of today by providing free university tuition and access to grants and scholarships. The alternative is that young people will suffer financial hardship and not reach their full potential.”

Our analysis

There’s no mention of ‘free university’ in the government’s manifesto.  It’s interesting to note that the 2019 Labour Party manifesto did include a pledge to abolish university tuition fees. Did that influence the UK Youth Parliament? Instead of adding no policies for this area, we decided to include those that relate to university access and student funding, as that’s the closest the government gets to addressing UK Youth Parliament concerns around extending opportunities and tackling financial hardship for students.

Policies we included

#3. Tackle Child Poverty

Summary from the UK Youth Parliament manifesto:

“[Ensure] access to free school meals all year round... We must bring back the Education Maintenance Allowance... We need to ensure that families can afford ever increasing uniform costs by increasing accessible grants and keeping prices low. We...need a new and fully-resourced anti-poverty strategy that will look at tackling other aspects of poverty, by increasing funding for youth and social services, increasing employment opportunities, scrapping the antediluvian two-child limit for benefits on Universal Credit and providing more support to help young people to find adequate accommodation so that they aren’t forced to live in squalid conditions. These solutions should involve constant consultation with young people...”

Our analysis

This was a straightforward choice given that the same policy of trying to reduce child poverty exists in both the UK Youth Parliament manifesto and the UK government’s manifesto.  The other policy we included, free school meals, has been a hot topic in 2020 and is understandably particularly close to the hearts of young people.

Policies we included

#4. Stop Plastic Pollution

Summary from the UK Youth Parliament manifesto:

“We call on the Government to put pressure on businesses to reduce growth in single-use plastic production and support a new law to phase out non-essential plastics.”

Our analysis

Single-use plastic has been a focus in both the 2019 and now the 2020 UK Youth Parliament manifestos, so it’s clearly important to young people.  It’s also notable how much there is in the government’s manifesto on plastics.  Is this the 'Attenborough effect', demonstrating the impact of public service broadcasting, or has something else prompted the suddenly increased visibility and urgency surrounding this issue?

Policies we included

#5. Increase Racial Awareness in the Curriculum 

Summary from the UK Youth Parliament manifesto:

“We call on the government to:

Teach young people the truth about racism in Britain, Britain’s colonial legacy and how both of these impact our lives today.

Recognising intersectionality, include five people of colour, five LGBTQ+ individuals and five women in the History curriculum before GCSEs so that all young people are aware of the role these groups have played in history.

Provide training to all teaching staff on anti-racism and unconscious bias.

To provide opportunities for young black people to have work experience days, career insight days and classes where they are taught the skills which will enable them to work their way up to high management positions, becoming entrepreneurs and being successful.“ 

Our analysis

The main government response to the killing of George Floyd and the international protests that followed has been to establish a controversial commission.  Further down the line it’s feasible that the commission could make suggestions similar to those proposed by the UK Youth Parliament, but there’s nothing in the manifesto about curriculum changes to address racism. We’ve selected policies that speak more generally to an improved approach to education, as well as the effort to tackle racism.

Policies we included

#6. Take Action on the Climate Emergency

Summary from the UK Youth Parliament manifesto:

“As we transition into recovery from Covid-19 we believe this gives the government an opportunity to:

“As we transition into recovery from Covid-19 we believe this gives the government an opportunity to:

  • Invest in Green infrastructure by legislating to reduce the environmental impact of new buildings, encourage rooftop green spaces and improve the efficiency of recycling and public transport.
  • Increase subsidies for renewable energy and invest in green industries to create new and sustainable jobs to ensure businesses play their part and to support them in doing so.
  • Consult young people on how they believe we can best protect the environment.”

Our analysis

There are 45 environment-related policies in the Conservative Party manifesto.  Climate change has become a powerful mobilising issue for young people in recent years.  We selected policies that relate to the UK Youth Parliament priorities, but the fact that this is our largest section also reflects the global nature of the climate emergency and its importance to young people.  The Youth Parliament’s emphasis on the need to consult young people is entirely absent from the government’s manifesto.

Policies we included

#7. Votes at 16

Summary from the UK Youth Parliament manifesto:

“We believe that the voting age must be lowered to 16 for all elections and referenda in the United Kingdom.

The issues which are at play in general elections and referenda will have the greatest impact on young people, and yet we currently don’t have access to the main democratic means by which we could affect them. For example, climate change will have a huge impact on young people and we are at the forefront of campaigning for climate action. However, we can’t vote for those who we believe will take action on our concerns.”

Our analysis

We selected a policy here that commits the government to a position opposed by the Youth Parliament.  We think it’s vital to recognise these areas of disagreement - they demonstrate the importance of representing the voices of young people at the highest levels.  Vocal opposition is essential in a functioning democracy.  We also included a policy that, theoretically at least, provides an additional avenue for young people to lobby for change.

Policies we included

#8. Tackle Discrimination and Hate Crime in the UK

Summary from the UK Youth Parliament manifesto:

“We call on the government to address how the education system privileges certain people and groups and to ensure that young people who are experiencing discrimination in their schools or communities are given work experience days and skills and confidence classes, extending into extra-curricular activities... 

We also call on the government to ensure that punishment for hate crime and bullying is appropriate, fair and consistent across the board. The government should raise awareness on what hate crime is, how it is best reported and how we can intervene as bystanders by teaching lessons on protected characteristics. Teachers should also be trained on ensuring that their own practice is not discriminatory. The government should ensure that the National Curriculum is fit for purpose in creating a sense of inclusion and belonging for all so that young people feel comfortable in challenging hate crime and to ensure that the UK is a place where all people regardless of their race, sexuality, ability or background feel comfortable and proud to make their home.”

Our analysis

We initially included more online, cyber crime policies in this category.  After discussion, and reflecting on the wording in the Youth Parliament manifesto, we agreed the focus should be more on real-world hate crime and discrimination.  We retained the broad pledge to “Make the UK the safest place to be online” as an acknowledgement that hate crime and discrimination take place digitally too.  We also included the promise to support innovation in education in this category because the Youth Parliament manifesto places such emphasis on changes to the curriculum and education system (worth noting, however, that the government’s concept of ‘innovation in education’ may not incorporate the changes the Youth Parliament would like to see).

Policies we included

#9. Include Young People in the Plan for COVID-19 Recovery

Summary from the UK Youth Parliament manifesto:

“We believe that young people must be involved in producing the government’s plan to support young people following the Covid-19 pandemic. This plan must ensure that we:

  • Support young people’s mental health services. 
  • Invest in a green recovery from the pandemic. 
  • Protect our education. 
  • Safeguard our employment.”

Our analysis

Consulting with young people on matters that affect them is a recurring theme in the UK Youth Parliament’s manifesto (rightly so, we think).  It’s also something that is missing almost entirely from the government’s manifesto.  Here, we’ve  selected policies on voting age and a new commission looking at our constitution - voting age because the absence of the right to vote is the clearest way in which young people are excluded from contributing to planning for their future; and the commission as a new potential route to increasing the involvement of young people in producing plans such as those required for the COVID-19 recovery.  

Policies we included

#10. Protect Human Rights

Summary from the UK Youth Parliament manifesto:

“We believe it is in the best interests of young people and of all British residents that their basic human rights are not threatened and made more precarious and that the UK maintains a strong record on human rights by staying a member of the European Convention of Human Rights and not repealing the Human Rights Act 1998.”

Our analysis

Continued UK membership of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) has been a matter of much speculation during Brexit negotiations. Here, the UK Youth Parliament makes clear that its emphasis is on  protecting the rights of individuals.  The UK government often speaks of balancing those rights against the need for national security and effective governance.  To reflect both sides, we’ve selected various policies that look at safeguarding the rights of individuals, but also included the government’s promise to ‘take back control of our laws’, which could even mean abandoning the ECHR one day.

Policies we included


If you have a question about any aspect of the Youth section on our manifesto tracker, don't hesitate to get in touch.