No.10 hears the views of Hackney Youth Parliament

Young people from Hackney voiced their opinions on how to increase youth participation in the community and in politics, during a round-table discussion with the Prime Minister at Downing Street last month (Thursday 28 May).

Prime Minister Gordon Brown asked members of Hackney’s Youth Parliament for their views on a range of subjects, including volunteering, childhood obesity, youth sports and knife crime.

Ismael Zakari, 16, Youth Parliament member for North East Hackney, put himself up as a candidate for HYP because he wanted to increase the number of activities available to young people in the borough.

He signed off his manifesto statement to the young people of the borough with this optimistic aspiration: ‘That every young person in Hackney will become united and all the trouble with post code wars will come to an end.’

Following his conversation with the Prime Minister, Ismael said the discussion demonstrated that Gordon Brown was taking young people’s concerns about safety seriously: “It seems like he wants to work with us on this one. He listened to what we had to say and his view was: it can be done.”

And, given Ismael’s commitment, to make sure that young people’s ideas about activities would not be ignored, he feels that having the ear of the Prime Minister goes some way to honouring that assurance. “I feel like I’m getting my voice heard,” he said. “After all, this is the man who’s running the country.”

In a speech, Gordon Brown detailed the policies that demonstrated his government’s commitment to young people including: funding to build a new generation of youth centres and advances in citizenship education in schools.

He said that more could be done to engage young people in politics, and that the Youth Citizenship Commission (YCC) would be looking at fresh ideas to this effect, such as lowering the voting age to 16 and introducing a citizenship ceremony for all 16 year olds.

Councillor Rita Krishna, Hackney Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services said that young people in the borough were proving that these approaches could work: “A healthy democracy relies on everyone actively engaging in the political process. Young people can and do influence what happens on their streets, on their estates and in their schools. Through initiatives such as Hackney’s Youth Parliament they are finding a voice, and discovering that when they voice their opinions they are listened to.”