A youth practitioner’s view of young people’s politics in the UK

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Wednesday, 3 April 2019, 12-1 pm (Conference Room, 2.15 Chrystal Macmillan Building)

Dena Arya, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh


A youth practitioner’s view of young people’s politics in the UK

Young people across UK nations face a host of challenges present and future; exacerbated by austerity policies and the privatisation of welfare services. Whilst the amplification of these challenges are apparent, so is an abject awareness amongst a spectrum of young people of the causes; an experience often reflected in my practice. This paper offers a practitioner’s view on young people’s politics through service provision and how this has led to a comparative doctoral research in youth political participation in England and Scotland.

Traditionally, young people have been seen as un-interested and disengaged in the political process. This longstanding idea is shifting following on from a surge in youth political engagement over recent years. Now, scholars such as Henn and Hart (2017) and Pickard (2018) pose a fresh perspective of young people’s political identity as motivated and agitated engaging in more informal methods of parliamentary politics. This paper is a contribution that aligns with these shifting scholarly views and demonstrates the importance of further research into youth political identity.

In recent years the language of co-production with young people has become woven into the frameworks of youth organisations. The reality is far less enchanting, with a process that is often top down, offering young people very little agency in the networks designed on their behalf. Over the past decade, I have worked with young people from a myriad of backgrounds and ages through local government, charity and third sector organisations; predominantly in deprived areas of London. This paper will reflect on my experience of young people’s participatory action outside of traditional politics through my work in the youth sector. The key areas that will be addressed are how institutions in the youth sector are creating obstacles for meaningful political engagement; how young people are creating alternative political spaces and why further research into this area is instrumental to supporting young people to have greater political agency.

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