LibLink: Cadan ap Tomos on the young and the voiceless in Wales

Cadan ap Tomos is the Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesperson for young people, equalities and the Welsh language, and is a former adviser to Welsh Lib Dem Assembly Members. He has written a post for the Institute for Welsh Affairs with the title “The young and the voiceless?“.

He writes:

“Young people are the future.” An increasingly-used and well-meaning phrase that those in the political bubble will have heard more than once. Yet as well-meaning as it is, to an actual young person like me it’s one of the most irritating clichés of modern politics.

Condemning young people as merely the ‘future’ completely ignores the fact that we’re human beings in our own rights. We aren’t just the ‘future’; young people are the present, the here and now, just like any person older than us. And not just that: despite having perfectly valid opinions, despite caring deeply about our generation and our communities, we’re continually silenced by an older generation that simply fails to take us seriously.

I’ve always found it peculiar how discrimination against children and young people isn’t viewed with exactly the same disdain and disgust as discrimination on the basis of gender, race, sexuality or ability. Of course, there are countless examples of institutional discrimination against all these characteristics, but ageism against young people seems to be one of the final frontiers in the fight for equal opportunity.

He cites minimum wage legislation which allows a 17 year old to be paid £4 less than a 25 year old; few candidates under the age of 25; longer waiting times for young people to access mental health services; and the general lack of young people in positions of influence.

And the result? Decisions directly affecting young people and their lives are made without a single young person in the room. In a country where a woman’s decisions being made by her husband is (quite rightly) becoming less commonplace, we seem all too ready to let a young person’s decisions be made by their parents – even if that young person is old enough to get married, have a child or die for our country.

All parties (yes, even my own) need to do more to encourage young people into politics and into positions of influence. And despite having a better record than most, I’m proud that my party is continuing to tread where no other has gone before. My appointment as Welsh Lib Dem spokesperson for young people marks the first time someone in my position speaks as a young person, not just on their behalf. That puts me and my party in a unique position to fight for young people and the issues they care about – be that in their education, their healthcare, their employment or their day-to-day lives.

You can read the full article here.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames and is a member of Federal Conference Committee.

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