Help youth workers tackle homophobia
The final Liberal Democrat conference before the General Election backed a call for better training and guidelines for teachers and youth workers to help tackle homophobic bullying today.
The youth policy paper, "Free to be Young", was proposed by Lynne Featherstone MP (Liberal Democrat Shadow Equalities Minister), and the motion as voted on by Lib Dem members and passed reads as follows:
Conference regrets that in Britain today many young people are denied the opportunity to thrive and, according to a UNICEF survey in 2007, that British children are the unhappiest in Europe.
Conference condemns Labour's target-driven attitude which seeks to force young people to conform to the Government's own model, rather than freeing them to fulfil their potential.
Conference believes that young people should be free, so far as possible, to make the decisions which affect their own lives.
Conference further believes that in a time of recession, we have a particular duty to ensure that many young people are not condemned to be part of a lost generation.
Conference reaffirms the commitment in the Party Constitution to build a fair, free and open society, where people of all ages are freed from poverty, ignorance and the obligation to conform.
Conference therefore endorses policy paper 96, Free to be Young, as a statement of the party's key policies for young people and its particular emphasis on freedom. Conference especially welcomes:
1. Proposals for education, inside and outside of the classroom, including:
a) Providing young people with access to specialist support and advice on everything from their legal rights and responsibilities to the effects of drugs and alcohol.
b) Safeguarding public playing fields by closing the loophole which means that fields lose their protection if they are boarded up for five years.
c) Working with the creative industries and young people to promote legal downloading websites that give both producers and consumers a fair deal.
2. Proposals on families and relationships, including:
a) Giving schools and colleges a duty to involve and correspond with both parents equally, unless there is a court order to prevent this.
b) Recognising that those people who drink alcohol should do so responsibly and encouraging parents to provide a good example.
c) Providing more support and information to teenage parents and teenagers who have had abortions to tackle the number of unwanted second pregnancies.
3. Proposals for youth employment, including:
a) Ensuring the same minimum wage rate is paid to everyone in work, regardless of age.
b) Creating new opportunities in education, training and the workplace and funding 15,000 more college based foundation degree places this year.
c) Introducing a new 'Paid Internship' scheme for the twelve months after the 2010 general election, paying anyone undertaking such an internship a 'training allowance' of £55 a week (£5 more than Jobseeker's Allowance); and providing minimum standards for all internships, including reasonable expenses and maximum lengths.
d) Ensuring that no one under 24 claims Jobseeker's Allowance for more than three months without a right of access to training, apprenticeships, work experience, internships or specialist back-to-work support.
e) Supporting schools, colleges and apprenticeship schemes to promote opportunities for disabled children and young people to address the disproportionate number of disabled young people who are not in education, employment or training.
4. Proposals to strengthen young people's rights and freedoms, including:
a) Providing full political rights at age sixteen.
b) Setting up a cross-departmental (junior minister level) young people's committee to ensure a joined-up approach to youth issues in government.
c) Guaranteeing academic freedom and defending free expression on university campuses, removing unjustified restrictions.
d) The immediate removal from the National DNA Database of all DNA samples taken from children under 16, bar those convicted of either a violent or sexual offence.
e) Incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into UK legislation.
f) Abolishing 'mosquito devices' and unnecessary restrictions on the assembly of young people.
g) Introducing a 'Code of Service' which includes a specific duty to treat young customers and service users with equal respect.
5. Proposals to provide more support when young people are vulnerable, including:
a) Encouraging more integrated working between schools and social workers to ensure that more support is available to young people when they leave or move school at 11, 16 or 18.
b) Encouraging local authorities to provide additional support, for example suitable accommodation, to those young people with particular needs, such as young people with disabilities, young offenders leaving prison and care leavers.
c) Preventing the use of altered and enhanced images in advertising aimed at under 16s, through changes to Advertising Standards Authority rules.
d) Campaigning on body confidence, challenging the broadcast and print media to take more responsibility for the issue and including body confidence in the relationships curriculum.
e) Campaigning for social networking sites to make it easier for young people and their families to report offensive posts, requiring social networking sites to remove offensive material within six hours of any such report.
f) Tackling homophobic and disability-based bullying with better training and guidelines for teachers and youth workers.
g) Ensuring that public service provision is accessible and does not exclude or discriminate against disabled children, young people and their families so they can enjoy the same opportunities as their peers.
h) Introducing forums for disabled children, young people and their families to influence issues around disability.
6. Proposals to tackle negative images of young people, including:
a) Campaigning for more positive images of young people in the media.
b) Recommending the Press Complaints Commission updates its Code of Practice to make it clear that the media should not demonise young people.
c) Making sure that all public policy is 'young people proofed' with youth impact assessments as part of the Equality Impact Assessment process.
d) Tasking the Children's Commissioner with a duty to carry out an annual review to monitor the wellbeing of young people in the country.
7. Proposals to encourage young people to become active participants in society by:
a) Making Youth Services a statutory responsibility for local authorities.
b) Encouraging local authorities to:
i) Provide youth services in partnership with young people and the voluntary sector
ii) Consider the needs of young people in all areas of service delivery
iii) Abolish or discount charges for services such as leisure and transport for young people.
c) Merging funding for out-of-school activities for all young people into one easy-to-access fund and guaranteeing youth projects their funding, where appropriate, for 3Ð5 years, subject to satisfactory safeguards.
d) Introducing an optional contributory insurance scheme to provide cover for school trips and other youth activities to ensure such opportunities can go ahead.