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20 October, 2008

Yes to a debate on lowering the voting age

The Citizenship Foundation welcomes the Youth Citizenship Commission's inquiry into whether the government should lower the voting age in the UK to 16. We urge that this be part of a larger national conversation about how to increase the range, breadth and depth of youth participation so as to properly involve young people as active and engaged citizens.

Public debates on young people's Citizenship are frequently reduced to allowing limited permission to speak on issues that adults believe to be youth issues; or on young people's propensity (or not) to abide by the law. We believe that the debate on lowering the voting age to 16 is an opportunity to demonstrate the wide-ranging contributions that many young people already make to the lives of their communities.

Lowering the voting age to 16 might also provide the opportunity to effect a radical shift in the experience of politics in secondary schools: put simply, at local, national and European elections, significant numbers of school age students will find themselves directly involved in the election process, potential voters rather than passive observers. And younger school members will be in a position to influence their near-peers, getting closer to the action as a result. Although there are legitimate arguments about voting and maturity, we believe that the Citizenship curriculum - compulsory through to 16 - is well placed to prepare young people for voting at 16. Whole school activities such as student debates, mock elections and 'question time' sessions involving local candidates will be given extra currency by the participation of some in the school community in the 'real thing'. Moreover, these school based activities may provide an opportunity to challenge the habits of political disengagement that too many young voters witness in their families.

Whether or not the voting age is lowered, we believe there should be much greater support for young people-led participation programmes and for those professionals and volunteers who daily build links with young people, directly helping to create a more cohesive society. Our own Youth Act programme, successfully piloted in 16 local authority areas, demonstrates just how effectively young people can lead change in their own communities but will only realise its potential if rolled-out nationally. We call on central government, local authorities, business and the voluntary and community sector to celebrate the work of these young people and to accept the challenge this makes to their own institutions.

We also urge the Youth Citizenship Commission - and the government - to recognise the huge contribution made by Citizenship Education to engaging young people in society, and to join our call for better resourcing and support for those delivering this work on the front-line. An appropriately resourced National Strategy for Citizenship Education remains long over-due and will be all the more vital should we lower the voting age to 16.


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From emily cassidy - manchester
i want the voting age to coe down to 16 because people want to have there say and what they want to increase it to bcause people have diffrent views to other people.

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