Today (16 July) the National Assembly will make a commitment to the young people of Wales. Presiding Officer, Dame Rosemary Butler AM, will, along with the leaders of the Assembly’s four political parties, sign a Young Person’s Charter. It will commit the Assembly to ensuring that every young person in Wales has the opportunity to contribute to the Assembly’s work. Dame Rosemary explains why this is such an important step in the development of devolution in Wales.
None of us should look at the young people of Wales and simply see them as the adults of the future.
They are people whose current needs and experiences should be listened to, and those needs ought to play an important role in terms of influencing the decision-makers that affect all our lives.
Eighty-six per cent of young people responding to our consultation said that they were interested in the things that effect them or their community, yet we have seen too many elections where the younger demographic have chosen, in large numbers, to exempt themselves from the democratic process.
I believe that’s because they can be put off politics at a young age. It’s at this stage when many appear to reach the conclusion that those who are making the key decisions that affect their lives don’t listen to their views – and never will.
I want to see a Wales where every child and young person in Wales feels that they have the opportunity to participate in the work of the National Assembly for Wales.
As Presiding Officer, I have made increasing the level of youth engagement with the work that myself and my colleagues do at the Senedd one of my top priorities for the Fourth Assembly.
And that’s why, along with the four party leaders in the Assembly, I am making this important commitment to the young people of Wales today.
Recently the National Assembly consulted young people, from all over Wales, about how we could encourage and support them to get involved in what we do here at the Assembly.
We had a fantastic response to the consultation, receiving three thousand responses – the biggest ever response to an Assembly consultation of any sort.
The responses told us that there is a huge appetite from young people across Wales to have their say on the issues that matter to them. And that we can help by ensuring they have opportunities to do this by participating in Assembly business.
In response to the consultation, the Assembly has agreed a new vision for youth engagement. We want the Assembly to be seen as a world leader in youth engagement. It is important that young people can have their opinions, on the issues that matter to them, heard and valued at the heart of the Welsh democracy.
Our approach to this has three key parts:
- Reaching out – the Assembly will make sure that, wherever they are and whatever their background, young people in Wales can learn about the work the Assembly is doing so they can decide how it is relevant to their passions and interests.
- Enabling debate – the Assembly will provide a variety of ways for young people to take part in our work which are fun, inspiring and tailored to their needs.
- Feedback – the Assembly will explain to young people how their contributions are making a difference so that they and others are inspired to engage further.
We’ll do this by building on the fantastic achievements of a team of people we have who inform young people about the Assembly, how it works and how they can get involved. We see up to 20,000 young people a year, and we want to see more. Central to our efforts will be our determination to involve young people from harder-to-reach groups, and offering more engagement outside the school environment.
To achieve this, we recognise the need to strengthen our relationships with organisations who work with children and young people outside the classroom.
The internal challenge is ensuring that in everything we do as an Assembly, we make the language, forums and platforms we use to communicate our work interesting, useful, and accessible to young people. This means, amongst other things, making the most of our online presence by using our youth website and social media channels as a hub of information and discussion when appropriate
This work is underpinned by a new Charter which forms our contract with the young people of Wales. It sets out what young people can expect from the Assembly, and what we expect from them. I was delighted that the leaders of all the political parties in the Assembly have agreed to join me in signing the Charter.
I believe the approach that I am launching today is a vital step towards ensuring our work reaches the future citizens of Wales and ensuring that they feel that their voices matter.