Central Bedfordshire students help to decide UK Youth Parliament's priorities

Central Bedfordshire students Ellen Burke and Steven Dawkins were among 285 students attending the House of Commons to decide the UK Youth Parliament’s national campaign for 2016.

Ellen, from Stratton Upper School, and Steven, of All Saints Academy, took part in the session which was chaired by Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow MP.

Following five debates, ‘Working together to combat racism and religious discrimination’ was chosen as the UK Youth Parliament's national campaign for 2016. And ‘Mental health services should be improved with our help' was chosen as the priority campaign for England.

Also up for discussion were: a living wage for all, a curriculum to prepare us for life and public transport. They were shortlisted following the largest-ever youth referendum ballot “Make Your Mark” which saw 967,000 young people deciding their priorities from a list of 150 issues. That included 3,926 young people across Central Bedfordshire.

Locally the top three issues for Central Bedfordshire were mental health, a living wage for all and a curriculum to prepare us for life.

The event opened Parliament Week, an annual initiative to build greater awareness, understanding and engagement with parliamentary democracy in the UK.

It was Ellen’s second time at the Commons event and Steven’s first.

Councillor Carole Hegley, Executive Member for Social Care and Housing, said: “Central Bedfordshire’s Youth Parliament and UK Youth Parliament are elected groups of young people who represent the voices of young people on a local and national level and are actively involved in positively shaping their communities and making services more young people friendly.

“Central Bedfordshire Youth Parliament has been active since 2010 and elections are carried out on a two-year term in upper schools across the area. Young people in school Years 8-11 can currently stand to be elected for upcoming elections in February 2016. Young people can register their interest up until 13 December.

“As an elected group of young people, the Youth Parliament provides opportunities for 12-18 year olds to use their voice in creative ways to bring about social change. They help influence the services provided and ensure the views of young people are known and understood.”

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