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My experience on the UK Youth Select Committee

Graphic with a dark green background. Image of Isla Grant MSYP standing on left with a white border. British Youth Council Youth Select Committee logo in a circle in the middle. Picture of Big Ben in London in the sunshine on the right.
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In August and September 2023, I was offered the exciting opportunity to go to UK Parliament in London and sit on the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee. The Youth Select Committee is a group of 12 young people from all over the UK which convenes once a year to lead an inquiry on a key issue affecting Britain’s young people. In the past, they have delved into problems like knife crime, body image, and most recently, the current cost of living crisis and its impact on the health and wellbeing of young people. It offers young people the opportunity to be at the forefront of investigating the issues that matter to young people in the UK, and to ask questions that might not have been considered by adult decision makers.

I was first asked to become the Scottish representative on the committee in August 2023, and jumped at the chance to go somewhere like London, a place that in the past I had only dreamed that one day I could go to. I attended the induction over the 15th and 16th of August, where I was able to meet the amazing other young people on the committee, develop key skills that would be necessary for our work, like teamwork, asking the right questions and even interview skills. We also received training on how to work in a formal committee setting, something that I have never experienced before. We had a chair and a vice-chair, a Parliament clerk, and even name plates in front of our seats! My first time in London was one that I will never forget, and the difference between the never-ending bustle of this city compared to the quiet by comparison Aberdeen I’ve always known was absolutely baffling.

Then, on the 17th of August, our call for written evidence was launched, and promoted up and down the country. We received evidence and research about the cost of living from countless organisations, such as Girlguiding, Scouts, Barnardo’s and even SYP! All of these pieces of written evidence had something in common – they told us that young people are being disproportionately impacted by the cost of living crisis and called on the UK Government to take actions in many different ways.

The committee then returned to London to conduct our oral evidence sessions – being able to hear young people’s experience of the cost of living was incredibly impactful and heartbreaking to listen to, but the passion that they spoke with was inspiring to everyone listening. Our first oral evidence session took place on 15th September, where we heard from three panels with a variety of witnesses representing different organisations such as Youth Futures Foundation, YMCA and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Each panel member offered a unique perspective, both from the members of their organisation and their own experience, and it was eye opening to hear about. The first panel of the day discussed free school meals, especially topical due to the UK Youth Parliament campaign for universal free school meals, and the SYP campaign on the Right to Food, and so this was an especially interesting panel to listen to. Then, we heard about marginalised communities and how they specifically are impacted by the cost of living, a consistent point that resurfaced several times over almost every panel, proving its importance to young people, and therefore how it should be to the Government. The third and final panel of the day then focused on life chances for young people, which informed us of how young people’s life chances have been limited due to the cost of living crisis. The second oral evidence session took place on 22nd September, where we heard from two panels containing witnesses from groups such as Bite Back 2030 and the Food Foundation. The first panel of the day was focused on young people’s access to specific services during the cost of living crisis, with youth work being a commonly raised issue. The second panel then focused again on marginalised communities and how they have been disproportionately disadvantaged by the crisis, as well as a spotlight on food insecurity in these communities.

Overall, my time on the Youth Select Committee was an invaluable opportunity for developing myself and my skills. I became a more confident public speaker, more able to learn and really investigate what is happening around me, and I was able to make new friends from all over the UK who, while we may be from different places and have different backgrounds, we all have one thing in common – we are passionate about making real, tangible change for young people in the UK, and for me, making sure that Scottish young people were not forgotten was a key reason why I joined the committee.

Over the last few months, the Clerks of the committee, and committee members ourselves, have been working to produce a report of findings, and then asks, to present to the UK Government. It details everything we discovered during our inquiry, with specific asks based on what we have been told in written and oral evidence. With the arrival of our report on 6th March, we hope to truly bring to light the gravity of this crisis, and what young people know the Government can do to help, and even offering solutions that just need to be acted upon. This is exactly why the Youth Select Committee is such an important part of youth engagement with the Government. By bringing together the lived experience of so many young people, we can make a powerful statement, not just to the Government, but to the whole country, showing that young people can not be silenced on this issue and that we will be heard. By learning about the causes and impacts of a crisis such as the cost of living directly from those most affected by it, more can be done which is truly impactful and provides relief, going above and beyond, and really benefiting people rather than scratching the surface.

If those who read our report take one thing from it, let it be this – the cost of living is the defining issue in the lives of young people today, and our futures will be decided by the course of action the government chooses to take to tackle it.

You can read the full report on the British Youth Council website.

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