A major public legal education initiative aimed at young people is launched today. The charity Youth Access is leading a partnership of funders and youth advice charities in a new project called Make Our Rights Reality (MORR) to equip young people to tackle problems to do with housing, debt and mental health.
- You can read James Kenrick, head of policy and development at Youth Access writing about MORR for LegalVoice here
According to Youth Access, the idea is for a new ‘social movement’. The charity reports that young people complain of being ‘fobbed off by councils, shut out of mental health services, exploited by employers, singled out for benefit sanctions – and ignored when they try to speak up’. ‘Arguably, no previous generation has experienced a greater need for the skills to navigate ‘the system’ as part of negotiating a successful path to adulthood,’ the group says. ‘Yet few young people are aware of their rights, how to assert them or where to go for advice.’
The idea is that the MORR project will ‘educate young people about their rights and responsibilities and how to tackle their everyday problems’; support young people to ‘work collectively in their communities to address social injustice’; and build ‘a national campaign network of young people speaking up for their rights’.
‘We hope this will be the start of a long-term social movement to connect young people with their rights and responsibilities as a vital part of their active engagement in civic society,’ commented James Kenrick, head of policy and development at Youth Access. ‘We know from research that young people possess the lowest levels of “legal capability” of any age group. As well as giving young people the tools to exercise their rights and responsibilities at critical points in their life, we want to support the youth and legal sectors to focus on rights as a tool for empowering young people – and on youth voice as a powerful tool for social change.’
The scheme, funded for three years by The Legal Education Foundation (TLEF) and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, will be delivered through three ‘hubs’: MAP covering Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire; No Limits for Southampton and Hampshire; and 42nd Street in Manchester working in partnership with Young Persons Advisory Service in Liverpool.
‘Our Advice Centre in Southampton is seeing increasing numbers of young people who are bewildered and disillusioned – without our support they go round and round in circles trying to access services or claim benefits to which they are entitled,’ Annabel Hodgson, No Limit’s chief executive said. ‘MORR will really help young people to help themselves.’
‘Young people have suffered a bigger proportion of public service cuts than any other age group – youth services and mental health provision cut,’ said Dan Mobbs, chief exec of MAP. ‘They aren’t entitled to the national living wage and can pay taxes without being able to vote. Young people are often expected to take responsibility without being given rights – the worst possible situation and found to be a factor in the Rotherham abuse scandal. Make Our Rights Reality is an opportunity to support young people to stand up for themselves and stay safe by learning about their legal rights and participate in campaigns aimed at improving life chances.’
‘Youth Access is a highly thoughtful and effective organisation,’ said TLEF chief exec Matthew Smerdon. ‘The local partner organisations are also all themselves leaders in the field. The project is poised to play a significant role.’
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