Headlines: January 18th, 2005

Young people’s views on politics and social issues ranging from bullying to the number of police officers on the beat and from child benefit levels to politicians’ attitudes will be set out in a report being launched today. “Give Us A Chance” has been compiled by the children’s charity Barnardo’s and outlines the views of 130 young people.The report will be presented to Margaret Hodge, the Minister for Children, Young People and Families by young people from Barnardo’s services from all over the United Kingdom. The charity says it is the first poll of children’s views in this election year. Barnardo’s is calling on the government to listen to the views of the young and is asking specifically for a review of the voting age and for politicians to stop seeing children and young people as potential troublemakers and see them as children with valid opinions and views.

The report says children and young people under 18 make up approximately a quarter of the total population of the UK but still have no voice when it comes to the political decisions that affect their everyday lives.Pat Thompson, Parliamentary Advisor with Barnardo’s, says, “All too often young people are presented as disinterested in politics, as apathetic to decisions and decision making. The young people we work with are among the most disadvantaged, yet they have powerful views that are both considered and reasonable.”

The report shows that drugs and alcohol abuse, poverty, bullying, disability, children in care, the environment, the police, education and Northern Ireland are among the issues discussed by the young people. Far from being apathetic and non realistic, the report says, their views contain many common sense suggestions.

Points made by the young people polled for the report include a suggestion that politicians should swap lives for a day with a young person. They also call for more real police – rather than wardens – on the streets and for more black and Asian police officers. They want real action to combat bullying and better places for homeless young people, pointing out that it is hard to keep off drugs and out of trouble if you live in “a really bad place.” They raise concerns about the environment, ask for high child benefit payments and more money for lone parents.