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YMCA is committed to young people’s access and participation in democratic life and civil society. We believe that all young people should have a voice and be engaged fully in local and national democracy.

The young people that interact with our services are passionate, articulate and active within their communities. As such, YMCA remains a long standing partner in the Votes at 16 Coalition and continues to advocate for young people both voting in elections from this age and standing as candidates.

As the Scottish Referendum has demonstrated, when enfranchised and engaged in the debate young people will participate in democracy. On the whole, however, this still has a tendency to be those who are well educated or who are motivated by a particular topic. Young people from marginalised groups are often the ones furthest from the democratic process but for whom engagement would have the biggest impact.

There is little doubt that the business of the next parliament will be dominated by the negotiations around the decision of the UK to leave the European Union (EU). While the country as a whole voted to the leave the EU, it should not be forgotten that the significant majority of young people voted to remain in the EU. When the UK exits the EU many of the opportunities funded through EU bodies will potentially disappear for young people.

The Erasmus+ programme has enabled thousands of young people to study abroad, learning different languages within new cultures. Likewise, funding from EU institutions has provided opportunities for organisations to run exchange programmes or intervention work within the UK. Some of the most
challenging and deprived communities within the UK have benefitted from EU funding over the years and this has had a positive impact upon the lives of many young people.

YMCA believes that, whether in or out of the EU, these opportunities and benefits should not be lost to our young people. YMCA therefore calls on the next government to ensure that the interests of young people are properly reflected in the negotiations leading to the UK’s exit from the EU.


  • Ensure that, as part of the ‘Brexit’ negotiating process, the needs and aspirations of young people, are considered and protected
  • Work to ensure that Europe wide, exchange, travel and educational programmes such as Erasmus+, continue to be available to UK citizens
  • Preserve the ability of young people to access jobs within other EU countries
  • Commission young people and representative organisations to produce a new ‘post-Brexit’ national Youth Offer
  • Legislate that the voting and candidate age for all elections is lowered to 16
  • Support community-based initiatives that engage marginalised groups in the democratic process