'The time is now - we are engaged and we know what we want'
Young people in Doncaster have been tackling big issues in the area from improving transport to changing the curriculum. Not least 14-year-old Alannah White, the Member of Youth Parliament for Doncaster, who said it is time for young people to get their voice heard.
Alannah, from Cantley, is a pupil at The Hayfield School and was elected by fellow Youth Council members to represent the town for the next year on the national stage as a member of the UK Youth Parliament.
Youth Parliament is made up of elected representatives across the country aged between 11 and 18 who run campaigns on issues including the curriculum, lowering the voting age and improving work experience opportunities for young people.
Last year, Alannah was the vice-chair of Doncaster Youth Council and said her dad, Andrew White, the presenter and producer for the TV show Walks Britain, and other family members encouraged her to take an interest in politics.
“My family are probably more political than most people. When I was younger I was a member of Amnesty International and did my own research into party policies. I saw a poster for youth council in my physics lesson and decided to go for it.”
Since being elected in February, Alannah has been busy meeting councillors and getting involved with campaigns.
Alannah said: “It’s great feeling like you can make a difference. Each year we do Make Your Mark, as many young people as possible between 11 and 18 vote and choose out of ten categories what is most important to them. In Doncaster, the top three were: transport, curriculum and work experience. Across South Yorkshire the top three were the same."
Transport is just one of the issues Alannah and other young politicians in the area have taken action on.
She said: “The issue with transport is it isn’t as accessible. I understand they had to compensate for funding cuts but the routes merged and buses are consistently late. It’s not adequate enough for how much it costs.”
She also said the travel cards for young people were unfair, and added: “We did some work at Youth Council to change the previous travel cards for young people. It used to be for people aged 16 to 18 but only if you were in full time education and it didn’t work over the summer holidays.
“We managed to get it changed to a 16 to 18 year-old pass so it didn’t matter if you were in full-time education and people could use it over summer.”
From experience, Alannah said young people are more engaged with politics than many believe and can help find solutions to problems.
“We need to ensure local authorities and decision makers engage with young people. Many just assume we aren’t interested in politics and don’t know what we want, but we really are and we do. It’s so important to get our voice heard as we are engaged and know what is best for us.”
After a record number of younger voters turned out in the 2017 general election, many have debated whether it is undemocratic to deny 16 and 17 year old the chance to vote.
Alannah said: “Lowering the voting age is a great idea, I would love to vote now, but I don’t think we have enough education in school for most people to make an informed decision. We first need to improve the curriculum.”
One of the ways young people in Doncaster are becoming more involved in politics is through the Youth Council. Anyone aged 11 to 19 can stand in the elections to become a youth councillor and, if elected, represent the views of young people in the area, meet with decision makers and campaign on issues. More information on how to get involved is available on their website.
Alannah urged other young people thinking about getting involved in politics to “just go for it” and said: “The time is now - we are being heard more than ever and we can help make positive change.”