Its nearly upon us, another year, another opportunity for the nation, well the bit of the nation that is above 18 years old, to participate in the adopted democratic process in the UK. In case you hadn’t noticed its EU referendum voting day on Thursday.
However under 18’s, and prisoners are the only people excluded from being able to vote, whether or not prisoners should or shouldn’t may itself be down to an EU law anyway (how ironic this week) .
Now, this is not the time to compare the rights of prisoners to the rights of 17 1/2 yr old in the UK – though if voting is so important to be excluded from an offender of the state, why restrict its access to young people for whom haven’t committed a crime, only the crime of not reaching a certain age, which isn’t their fault.
So, if a youth workers principle philosophy and approach is to ‘hear the voice’ and represent young people, the fight might be to try and reduce the age of voting ( which Labour have recently pledged) – but also if a great number of people, ie the under 18’s in the UK will be affected for the longest by this decision this week – how will their views be heard in the debate and who will act on them? will parents act on behalf of their children, or grandparents for their grandchildren…?
Does a youth worker have a responsibility, because of their approach, their conversation and the sake of the young people they work with, to represent the views of the young people they know in their local area to vote in accordance with them – so at least their opinion & a vote is representative?
After all, the youth worker has something in them that considers young peoples voices to be heard, represented and acted upon, even if it seems futile that one vote is to represent a large group such as a youth club or group.
As far as i know, the philosophy of the youthworker in regard to young people is different to that of prison wardens or workers, who by and large are there to service the institution, rather than be the voice of the prisoner and represent them, for the teacher this is often the same in the school (not all teachers etc, but is the organisation that drives their purpose not the young peoples needs, gifts, interests or opinions)
For the youthworker this is fundamentally different, as we’d almost goo out of our way to criticise even our own institutions when young people arent being treated as they should. So, the question remains – As a youthworker – How should i vote?
Recently in one of the groups at DYFC, we did a session with young people (10s-13s) on the subject of the EU referendum. The vote at the end was 50/50 in/out, with as many who did express an interest not voting. In terms of making a decision as a youth worker this makes it all the more difficult to decide, however the discussion was lively and thought provoking, and a case could be made that 12-13 yr olds could be given the vote, as it would get a 50% turnout rate. When the over 18’s get that kind of turnout rate maybe then can there be legitimate call not to include young people who were empassioned and had clear reasoning for their opinions.
So – As a youth worker – how should i vote?