Last week, in Stocksbridge, Parsons Cross and Crystal Peaks, young people were given the opportunity to question their MPs and the Sheffield Members of the UK Youth Parliament. In Q&A sessions chaired by Harry, young people challenged their representatives on issues that mattered to them.
Following on from a successful Q&A with Shadow Education Secretary Andy Burnham MP that took place earlier this year, Harry called for greater involvement of young people in their democracy. Harry contacted Sheffield’s Members of Parliament and arranged with them and Sheffield Futures for joint surgeries to take place.
From 27th – 29th July, Harry met with MPs David Blunkett, Angela Smith and Clive Betts and invited young people to voice their concerns on a broad range of topics. Predominantly the issues of EMA, youth unemployment and tuition fees were raised, reflecting the worry felt by Britain’s young that they are bearing the brunt of the cuts imposed by the Coalition. In response to questions about the replacement to EMA, Brightside & Hillsborough MP David Blunkett advocated better communication between colleges and pupils, as many disadvantaged young people do not know what they’re entitled to. Mr Blunkett went on to suggest the launch of a website co-ordinated by the UK Youth Parliament as a means of achieving this.
Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield South East, when questioned by young people about supporting the disadvantaged, called the current system of concessionary transport unacceptable. Mr Betts took issue with the fact that cheap fares for those in education expire in July, and application for a new card cannot begin until September. This leaves a period during the summer, and into the first few weeks of term where young people are charged the adult fare when they should qualify for the discount.
At the surgery with Angela Smith, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge she addressed the current problems with Apprenticeship schemes. Ms Smith identified that apprenticeships available were for those with a more advanced set of skills and no provision was being made for school leavers wanting to learn new skills as was previously possible. Due to lack of leadership from central government, local authorities in some areas such as Sheffield have been forced to step up, and introduce Intermediary Apprenticeship Schemes as a transition between school and the more advanced apprenticeships.
Harry was extremely pleased with the success of all three surgeries and was impressed by the quality of questions asked by the young people who attended.
“Whilst expecting good things from the young people who were coming, it was really great to see them take advantage of this opportunity to hold decision makers to account, and to see them do so in such a mature and very thought provoking way. It is exactly the kind of process that young people everywhere need to be a part of. As the Coalition continues to attack local authorities’ ability to provide for young people, we have to be more politically active than ever, and be willing to voice our own alternative.”