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How do you get the voices of young people into Parliament?

3 min read

Former Treasury Minister Chloe Smith MP writes ahead of her Westminster Hall debate on 'Young jobseekers and the Department of Work and Pensions'.

I’ve been one of the country’s youngest MPs. I know we have a huge job to do to make sure that young voices are heard in Parliament and politics. 

As David Willetts arguesthat we must not privilege the old at the expense of the young, and as young people’s participation in elections remains a fraction of that of their grandparents, we are at a crucial moment.

I’m holding a debate in Parliament today about how we can help more young people into work.  I’m also piloting a Digital Debate, where last night scores of young people across the country got stuck into the debate topic on Twitter to inform the hour we spend on their behalf in a draughty corner of Westminster.

Willetts argues, as I have elsewhere, that the young “are decent and hard working. We have a duty to them just as much as we have to the older generation.”

And, by the way, most young people are not raging left wingers. They are far more interested in building their lives, loving their families and making a positive contribution to their world.  We are a generation with the values of hard work.

This is why I am speaking up for young jobseekers today. I’m using research by the YMCAwhich asks: young people are three times more likely to be out of work than other age groups - how can job centres help them find work?

Our growing economy is positive for young people. More jobs have been created recently in Britain than in the rest of Europe put together. This is good news for a generation of young jobseekers who can look to a brighter future. 

And the unemployment rate is indeed falling: for the last 3 months on record (ONS: June to August 2015) the unemployment rate for 16-24 was 14.8%. This is lower than in the spring, and lower than the same time last year. Young people in Britain are doing better than across Europe, where more young people are out of work, around one in five, with one in every two Spanish and Greece young people lacking work. 

In Britain, there are still 683,000 unemployed young people seeking a better future (including 231,000 full time students looking for part time work). 

Some of those are speaking directly into Parliament by means of this digital debate and the research I’m drawing on, where unemployed young people in my constituency and across England told YMCA England about practical ways the jobcentre can play its part.  The Found Generationalso brings ideas, as do all those who are contributing through the All Party Parliamentary Group for Youth Employment.

We need to grow the economy further, make connections, share good ideas and act on constructive research such as this. 

Most of all, we need to heed young people’s own experiences. It is excellent to be able to hear from so many in the innovation of a digital debate, and to be able to work with the YMCA to listen and respond, but young people merit their own place in politics. Westminster must take more seriously our duty to balance every generation’s needs.

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