A Youth Parliament for Wales: a welcome addition to our democracy

Cardiff bay and the National Assembly for Wales

I was thrilled to see the Llywydd (Presiding Officer) Elin Jones AM announce plans for the Assembly Commission to establish a national Youth Parliament for Wales.

This support by the Llywydd will have a big impact.

Firstly, it sends out a clear message to children and young people in Wales that they are important citizens with a part to play in the governance of our nation.

Secondly, it means that politicians, the media and the general public will hear in a powerful way about the many concerns and potential solutions that young people wish to take forward. My experience is that better decisions are made when an institution (or in this case nation) involves all of its members in coming up with solutions.

Thirdly, it is a logical additional layer to the local youth councils and forums that thrive throughout Wales but which are unable at the moment to take forward national issues.

For example, earlier this week I attended the annual conference of the excellent Caerphilly Youth Forum.

This local authority forum thrives because it has strong local bases in the different areas that make up the county and because the council itself makes involving the forum a priority.

The conference was attended by several members of the Council’s Cabinet, including the Leader, and the conference conclusions will be presented to the Cabinet. Every year the council implements some of the proposals, but often the issues concerning young people in the county need to be addressed at a national level.

For example, the young people this week had strong views about the new national curriculum and what should be in it.

That’s the kind of debate that will be able to take place in a Youth Parliament. In recent years that national layer of youth democracy has been missing in Wales.

I have called in both the Annual Reports I have published since becoming Commissioner for a national democratic space for young people in the form of a youth assembly, and have discussed this with the First Minister and with the Llywydd shortly after she was elected and appointed in May.

I have been impressed by the young people who have been campaigning for a youth assembly ever since the earlier version, Funky Dragon, lost its government funding.

Their campaign has made a real difference in keeping the issue at the top of the agenda.

As the independent champion for children’s rights in Wales, I need to be answerable to Wales’ children and young people for what I do.

I look forward to the robust scrutiny that a Youth Parliament will give to my role and I look forward to supporting the Llywydd and the National Assembly as they move forward with this very positive next step for democracy in Wales.