LISA NANDY MP - Deeply impressed by dedication

ONE of the groups having the hardest time in the current recession is young people.

Youth unemployment has reached one million and young people have been particularly hard hit by cuts to public spending.

They are facing high costs at college and university and taking huge cuts to their Education Maintenance Allowance and youth services, among other things.

I often urge young people to get involved and speak up if they want to see the situation improve but too often young people do not vote and because of this it is said they are not interested in politics.

Recently I visited a fantastic youth group at Ince Community Centre which busted the myth that young people aren’t interested in politics.

The group, led by youth workers from Wigan Council, exists to help young people build confidence, gain friends, qualifications and a wider perspective on the world.

The young people, who ranged in age from 11-18 left me in no doubt about their views on the world around them. Over the last year they had held a number of debates, including on the riots.

Their general view was that it was completely unacceptable for people of any age to riot, but that young people were certainly frustrated and had to find legitimate ways to express themselves.

The group had also been to visit the House of Commons and were full of questions about how it worked, how policy gets made and what David Cameron is like in person.

I was left deeply impressed by the dedication of their youth workers, and the energy, passion and optimism of the young people themselves.

Last month I launched a national campaign - Plan B for Youth - which called for a new Government strategy to help the current generation of young people.

One of the recommendations was that young people should be allowed to vote from the age of 16. Countries that allow young people to vote earlier tend to find they continue to vote into adulthood.

I am a strong supporter of votes at 16 because I believe that young people who can work and pay taxes, fight in the army and contribute to their communities also deserve a say.

After meeting those interesting and well-informed young people in Ince I was left in no doubt that they are just as qualified to do so as the rest of us.