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Cabinet Blogs – Engaging Young People in Decision-Making

Teams meeting screenshot of MSYPs, MCPs and Members of the Scottish Government Cabinet at the Cabinet Takeover event in 2021
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March saw the anniversary of the first COVID-19 ‘Lockdown’. It also marked the month the UNCRC Bill was passed by parliament, and on that same day, young people met with the Scottish Cabinet. A day where ministers hear directly from young people about the issues that affect them. The day was very empowering and certainly felt like Article 12 in action. A day fuelled by participation but most importantly ambition. There was definitely a collective feeling of ambition. Ambition that we want Scotland to be the best country in the world to grow up in.

We heard a range of views and perspective, I spoke about the importance of engaging young people in decision making, especially through government groups etc. I have sat on the COVID-19 Education Recovery Group, where I feed in the views of young people. I have seen with my own eye the importance of meaningful engagement like this. However, it’s so important this action is not tokenistic and we get the balance right to allow young people to effectively engage.

Have a look below at what I said to the cabinet:

“Every Thursday morning, for the past 6 months I have been representing young people at the COVID-19 Education Recovery Group. Ilse has been appointed to the Mental Health Equalities and Human Rights Forum. Daniella meets with the Scottish Government’s race equality in education stakeholder group. Cameron Garrett MSYP meets with the National Qualification Group every Friday. Ellie Craig MSYP meets with the Gender Equality Taskforce regularly and this list goes on and on.

Young people actively involved with decision-makers by attending groups like these. Young people being part of the thought process and not an afterthought. Doing things with young people, and not for young people. It is things like this that matter the most to young people, not just being heard but being listened to and then seeing that their input has made a difference. Young people bring fresh perspective, a different kind of energy and valuable opinions. The progress of the Scottish Government in getting young people appointed to these groups, especially in the last twelve months when it was needed most, has been excellent.

A seat at the table, reserved for a young person, is a crucial step. There have been some events in the past that have caused young people a lot of frustration, most notably on results day 2020. We strongly believe this frustration could have been mitigated should there have been a constant engagement with young people. Therefore, we are calling on the government to implement procedure which allows for young people to attend working and implementation groups across Scotland. This will further demonstrate that the UNCRC will be prevalent in the very heart of government working. What’s the best way to ensure we stick to Article 12? We get young people involved!

However, that table is not always a youth-friendly environment. Technical papers, which may come in very last minute, complex language, meeting times that clash with things like school, there are a few barriers that inhibit the full participation of young people. So whilst we are calling on you today to include more young people in groups like these, we are also calling for action to not only include young people in relevant groups but to see a review of the working practices of these groups that ensures young people’s participation is as meaningful as possible. We at SYP are always on hand to do this, indeed we continue to do it with many groups. The SYP Board of Trustees is comprised of 16-20 year olds, so we know a thing or two about young people being at the helm.

We recognise that it is not always suitable for young people to attend certain meetings and attend certain groups, but we do believe there is always a way. Efforts can be made to engage young people indirectly, this brings more accessibility and a very similar level of participation. But the most important thing remains, young people are being heard. 

These new ways of thinking and acting are what is going to bring us, young people, the biggest sense of pride of being part of a country that listened. This sort of thing can be difficult, to change ways of working after so many years, however, there is always a group of people on hand to help – young people. Where we are now with this is amazing, but we can always do better. Whilst it is not always easy, it will always be worth it, and today just proves that.”

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