In UK politics, there is something lacking: the voices of young people. From a reduction in housing benefit for young people to ever-rising tuition fees, and from the scrapping of university grants and education allowances to the closing and defunding of our vital youth services, it’s clear that, for too long, the needs of young people have been pushed to the bottom of the political agenda. The Co-operative Party is changing that.

With issues like Brexit and climate change increasingly dominating the political conversation, the time for youth participation is now. We are keeping young people at the heart of our policies, fighting for our rights and building a fairer society where we can all thrive.

Here’s what the Co-operative Party offers to young voters:

1. A democracy that works for young people

At the last election in 2017, young people turned out to vote in their highest numbers for 25 years. We want our voices heard. But too often, the very processes and institutions that should represent and serve us actually exclude young people.

The EU referendum revealed a generational divergence in attitudes and values, and yet the generation that will live with the consequences were unable to have their say at the ballot box. Meanwhile, too many political institutions continue to be dominated by older generations, silencing the ideas of young people.

The Co-operative Party’s plan will empower young people by making these democratic processes and institutions more accessible. As well reaffirming our commitment to lowering the voting age to 16, the policy also focuses on a role for young people on decision-making bodies. Youth councils and youth mayors have achieved great successes in some local councils, encouraging youth participation and holding political representatives to account on the issues that affect us most. But to ensure that every young person has the opportunity to have their say, these roles should be enshrined in law and required in every part of the UK.

2. A co-operative vision for education

A co-operative vision for education is one that keeps communities, students, teachers and parents at its heart. At a time when profit-maximisation has turned our education system into a business model, the Co-operative Party is demanding “education which treats students as learners and active participants, not consumers”.

This means taking young peoples’ views about their own education seriously. There must be real opportunities for students to lead on school policies and strategies. Similarly, parent-teacher associations should be mandatory in every school, ensuring that the needs of individual communities are reflected in their schools.

3. Supporting the services we need the most

Some of the most brutal government cuts of the last decade have been to essential youth services up and down the country – from youth clubs working at the heart of communities to vital youth mental health services. Studies into the effectiveness of services have shown that children and youth programmes often have the greatest positive impact on an individual’s life course, and yet they are too often the services facing destruction.

The policy platform calls for the Youth Service to be defined as statutory, as well as being properly financed and resourced. It also promotes the use of Youth Offending Teams who offer vital early intervention and rehabilitation services for young people.

For our communities, economies and societies to work, young people’s voices must be included and amplified. The Co-operative Party’s message is clear – young people cannot be forgotten. Instead, we should play a central and vocal role in the fight for a fairer society.

You can download the #GE2019 Co-operative Party Policy Platform here.