Making politicians more accountable to young people
Young voices having their say
Written by Joseph Munnelly
Voices - Opinion
Young people share their point of view.
I was wondering about how I was going to start this article but then it struck me – 12 million euro is to be taken from the mental health budget placing people in desperate need at risk, especially young people. Depression is an illness which affects us all whether directly or indirectly and it is something anyone of us could face within our lifetime.
Ireland has one of the highest rates of youth suicide in Europe. This little island of just over 5 million people is facing a battle with mental health with a government that does not want to face up to the cold hard facts. According to the World Health organisation, mental health issues account for up to 30% of all visits to GPs in Europe and it is a condition which is on the rise, especially for teens and young adults.
It doesn’t make sense that in a country that is facing an epidemic concerning mental wellbeing the government would turn a blind eye and cut budgets, but that is what is happening. Already, mental health services are stretched and in schools and colleges there are long waiting lists or services are unavailable. Ireland is facing a crisis but our electorate seem blind to the suffering.
This is where my article takes a turn. #IamAReason is a movement which is taking a stand against mental health cuts but there is a movement which you can get involved with and which hopes to make a difference to young people in Ireland.
Young Voices is a group of young people that is working towards giving a voice for youth concerns on the political stage. Young Voices envisions a youth body which will exist alongside the current political structures to create and change Irish legislation and policy.
This idea is “Youth Check” which is a tool that will protect and voice the rights and concerns of young people, making sure that any political decision that could affect them is questioned and forced to consider both the concerns of young people and the youth organisations that represent them. This tool would force politicians trying to put forward new policy and legislation to justify their reasons and will flag any problems that such legislation may have on the youth sector.
In other words, it is a Dail watchdog in the making which could prevent such budget changes as seen in the mental health budget. It would also make politicians accountable through monitoring and ensuring they work, as promised, towards the goals they have set out in their national youth strategy.
Youth check is not something that is completely new. In Austria, Germany and Belgium young people and youth organisations are putting this revolutionary idea into practice. Young Voices wants young people to have a real say in politics and have their concerns and voices championed in a concrete way, which is not tokenistic but stands to tackle and prevent changes in legalisation and policies which could negatively affect young people.
The group is open to all and is on its way to making a real difference for young people in Ireland.
You have the opportunity to be a part of something big and join a European network of young people all striving for the same goal. In association with the National Youth Council of Ireland, Young Voices will open doors to new opportunities such as travelling and becoming youth delegates within EU youth conferences where the experiences and ideas from European youth can be brought back to improve the lives of young people in Ireland.