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Exploring Citizenship: Building Participation: a submission to the Youth Citizenship Commission

In October 2007 the UK government announced that a Youth Citizenship Commission would be set to develop policy ideas outlined in the Governance of Britain paper. By February 2008 Jon Tonge, head of the Politics Dept at University of Liverpool, was announced as chair.

The YCC was given a remit to:

  1. Examine what citizenship means to young people;
  2. Consider how to increase young people's participation in politics; the development of citizenship amongst disadvantaged groups; how active citizenship can be promoted through volunteering and community engagement; and how the political system can reflect the communication preferences of young people;
  3. Lead a consultation on whether the voting age should be lowered to 16.

The Citizenship Foundation welcomes a discussion on these issues. We have written an initial submission for the Commission, which focuses on its three main tasks.

Task 1: What does citizenship mean to young people?

It will be crucial for the Youth Citizenship Commission to consider and define the multitude of meaning that the term ‘citizenship'. Before posing questions about citizenship to young people, it will therefore be helpful to break ‘citizenship' down into its constituent parts like identity, status, consultation, participation, political engagement and legal literacy. The Citizenship Foundation has always regarded citizenship as the process of engaging individuals in society, as effective citizenship, rather than only as the status of being a member of a particular state.

Task 2: Engaging young people in politics especially disadvantaged young people

By educating young people to be politically literate, projects like Youth Act and Giving Nation alongside the Citizenship curriculum in schools enable them to engage in wider political issues, locally, nationally or internationally. We are convinced that this practice can serve as a way of increasing young people's participation in politics. Our experience shows us that the development of citizenship amongst disadvantaged groups hereby requires targeted activities dependent on the group's needs.

Task 3: Consultation on lowering the voting age to 16

The Citizenship Foundation also welcomes the Youth Citizenship Commission's inquiry into whether the government should lower the voting age in the UK to 16 and we urge that this be part of a broader national conversation about how to increase the range, breadth and depth of youth participation so as to properly involve young people as active and engaged citizens. In the debate about lowering the voting age, we think that the role of Citizenship Education is essential and call on the Youth Citizenship Commission and the government for better resourcing and support for those delivering this work on the front-line.

Download our submission to the YCC in full (pdf)