Giving a voice to young people

House of Commons youth parliament speakers
House of Commons youth parliament speakers

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They may be young, but these determined students could be the MPs of the future.

They want their voices, and the voices of their peers to be heard and they want to make a difference.

Now, young people across Portsmouth are being given the chance to vote for their Youth Parliament representative in an online election.

Pupils will be able to vote for the next Member of Youth Parliament (MYP), until Sunday, February 17, using a voting code.

Young people who are Not in Education Employment or Training (NEET) are also eligible to take part, by sending their voter cards in the post.

And Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, says he is fully supportive of the idea.

‘It’s brilliant. To have a young parliament is the first major step for getting more and more young people to engage with politics and to have their say.

‘I have been in schools talking about it and encouraging them.

‘For the young people who have come to see me I have tried to install in them some interest in both what’s going on today and getting them involved in shaping the future.

‘I’m delighted that it’s beginning to work but it’s still not enough. The political parties need to do more to support them.

‘Young people need to be ready and willing to get involved but we have got to encourage them to get involved. We have got to give them opportunities.’

Penny Mordaunt, MP for Portsmouth North, adds: ‘We’ve just had a debate about the voting age. No matter what the voting age is, we know we have got a lot of young people who are pretty apathetic about politics.

‘It’s a really good initiative. People who take part in it really do get an interest in it and hopefully it’s something that they take on through the rest of their life.’

The winning candidate will become the new Member of Youth Parliament, and the runner up will become Deputy Member of Youth Parliament (DMYP).

Once elected, they will have lots of opportunities to get involved in.

They will take part in the ‘Lesson4Life’ initiative, helping to establish a curriculum which prepares people for life after school or college.

The MYP will have a seat on the Children’s Trust Board, and will be responsible for meeting regularly with the leader of the council.

They will also be invited to speak at the House of Commons later in the year.

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Steve McDermott is 16, lives in North End and attends the City of Portsmouth Boys School in Hilsea.

He wants to arrange more things for young people in the city to do to keep them off the streets.

He says: ‘Last year with the Youth Parliament I co-ordinated a big culture event in the city.

‘It was free for young people and about 300 people turned up.

‘I really want to organise it again.

‘Portsmouth has so much to offer young people.

‘I can get more young people involved in culture across the city and organise some more events.

‘Instead of young people being on the streets all night they can do something that people know is going on. It gives a better image for young people.

‘They want more free cultured events across the local area.

‘I go places and I do things but there are a lot of young people who sit at home and do nothing or go out with their friends.

‘I don’t want them to be out on the streets doing no good all the time.

‘Young people need a voice. I think I’m one of the best people to give that voice.

‘I can get any voice heard throughout the city and throughout the country. It’s important that we are all heard.

‘We are still members of the city.

‘Young people should have a say in what the government do when it involves them.

‘It’s quite an important thing and it’s all linked in with human rights.’

Tshibola Kabongo, is 16, lives in Southsea and attends Charter Academy.

She moved from Congo at the age of 11 and is passionate about human rights as a result.

She says: ‘Life was really difficult for me and my family. It was really difficult to cope.

‘We had to pay for school. Now I live a life which I couldn’t imagine. When I moved here with my mum and my sisters I found the opportunity that the UK gives people.

‘You can think about the future which I couldn’t think about when I was back home.

‘That’s why I was so interested in getting involved in this.

‘I wanted to do something that could help people who might need my help.

‘I want to look at the problem with buses in the city.

‘It can be quite expensive for children to get to school.

‘I’m interested in politics. I’m not hoping to make it my hobby but I do want to stand up for young people and their rights.

‘Maybe some day I might go back to my country and tell them what’s important for young people and how they can make it possible to have a future.

‘People should vote for me because I’m thinking about what I can do and a lot of people will be inspired by me to see how they live their lives and look at all the opportunities they can have. They shouldn’t take that for granted.

‘They should be thankful and work hard – study and be someone in life and in the future. Someone like me didn’t have that before and now I do.

‘In my country parents had to pay or we wouldn’t be able to study.

‘Young people were crying because they couldn’t go to school.

‘They didn’t have the opportunity to go to school.’

Samantha Taylor is 12, lives in Southsea, and goes to Charter Academy.

Her dad Trevor Taylor, 45, suffers from multiple sclerosis.

As a result, Samantha wants to do more to help disabled people.

She says: ‘I wanted to get involved in the Youth Parliament because

more young people are getting left out and not having a say.

‘So I decided I would go for it and give younger people who are sometimes forgotten a chance.

‘I’m interested in politics because it isn’t always the same.

‘There are so many different issues.

‘I watch the news sometimes so I know what’s going on.

‘At school we do all talk regularly about what’s happening with politics and MPs and of course, the Prime Minister.

‘I don’t want the younger generation to be forgotten.

‘People think the younger generation don’t really matter but they do. It’s so important.

‘People should vote

for me because I would definitely like to make a difference with disabled people being treated much better.

‘I’m a young carer for my dad. I do a lot to help him out.

‘I help with washing and I clean and do the washing-up and I help my dad in the morning.

‘I walk the dog with my brothers too.

‘And I help to look after the cats.

‘Some people suffer a lot because of their disabilities in everyday life.

‘If we can change that we will see a lot of new people who wouldn’t feel so shy and they can come out into the world.

‘They would be respected for that.’

Kay Sutherland is the current MYP and has spent the last year representing the young people of Portsmouth.

She is 16, lives in Copnor, and attends Admiral Lord Nelson School.

She says: ‘There are so many young people who want to make a difference in their communities.

‘It really made me notice how much young people need help to get their voices out there.

‘It’s been an amazing experience and that’s why I’m going for it again. It’s been an amazing year. It’s changed me so much.

‘I just love the debating side of it.

‘I love how everyone’s voice is valued equally.

‘It’s made me realise how much I love representing young people.

‘I can represent people from Portsmouth and go to the House of Commons and stand up and speak for them.

‘It’s a great opportunity to do it again and I wish I had started doing this earlier.

‘I think people should vote for me because ever since I started senior school I have been a part of my student council at school.

‘I believe that over this past year it gives me a lot more experience than anyone else.

‘I know what’s going to be happening.

‘What’s really hard at the moment is the money situation. What I would really liked to have done is to build a youth shelter in Mountbatten Park.

‘I’m working on that and I would like to get that done and dusted.

‘I would love to represent young people again.

‘I have got so much experience from everything that I have done before that I know how to represent young people in the best way and how to get young people speaking to me so I can represent them even more.’

Lillie Faust, is the youngest of the candidates, aged just 11.

She lives in Cosham and attends Springfield School in Drayton.

She says: ‘When I was younger I used to enjoy watching parliament on the television.

‘My dad told me I could become a Member of Parliament.

‘So I said I would try and join the Youth Parliament.

‘There are lots of things in the city that I wish I could change.

‘When I go to school I can’t afford to get the bus, it’s expensive.

‘I want cheaper ways for children to get to school and back.

‘I want new clubs to be started up.

‘Some of the clubs are closing down due to financial problems.

‘I like the debates in politics. I find it really interesting.

‘I would love to get into politics.

‘I watched The Iron Lady and my dad said that I could be like a little Maggie Thatcher.

‘I think people should vote for me because I’m very friendly.

‘I understand why people want things done.

‘In my old school I used to be on the school council.

‘Everybody used to vote for me all the time. I used to really enjoy it.

‘If somebody wanted something done, I would get it done.

‘I listen to people and if someone is really shy I will speak up for them.

‘I like helping people and I like changing things in the city.

‘I would be a really good person because I would manage to get to the meetings.

‘I would find a way of getting there somehow because it’s really important to me.’