Sheffield teenager on a mission to give young people a stronger voice

Elari Kirkpatrick-Lorente, 18, a member of the Youth Parliament, had the chance to debate in the House of Commons
Elari Kirkpatrick-Lorente, 18, a member of the Youth Parliament, had the chance to debate in the House of Commons
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Some 18-year-olds are more interested in hanging out with friends than debating the latest hot political issues.

But for Eleri Kirkpatrick-Lorente of Broomhill, campaigning on issues she cares about is a top priority.

Eleri debating in the House of Commons when the Youth Parliament last met

Eleri debating in the House of Commons when the Youth Parliament last met

As a member of the Youth Parliament, Eleri debates and shapes policy – giving young people a stronger voice.

Eleri was 15 when she was elected as a MYP to the Sheffield West constituency and she has had the privilege of standing up in the House of Commons and joining in a debate with her young peers, chaired by Speaker of the House John Bercow and broadcast live on BBC Parliament.

“Standing up and speaking in the House of Commons was so cool, but quite nerve-racking,” Eleri, now 18, said.

“I’ve often watched Prime Minister’s Questions on TV but to be there and get the chance to speak was so surreal.

“It was a brilliant experience, something I’ll never forget.”

The former High Storrs student added: “I found I didn’t like certain aspects of education and how young people’s voices were not being heard enough.

“Issues that I found I cared about the most were not getting enough coverage and I feel it’s so important to encourage more young people to get involved in the democratic process.”

The young MYPs meet twice a year – first to discuss national policy and agree on the campaigns, such as anti-racism and improving mental health provisions.

And the second meeting is debating policy in the House of Commons live on TV.

Eleri is one of three Sheffield MYPs, who have run campaigns on a variety of issues such as youth funding, NHS cuts, the price of public transport and sexual harassment in schools.

She is unsure whether she wants to pursue a career in politics and said: “I don’t know really, I’m not sure. I’ll see about that in the future!”

Now Eleri, who gets training from youth charity Sheffield Futures, is urging more young people and schools to get involved as the Youth Parliament launches its nationwide consultation to decide what issues to campaign on.

“Some schools don’t seem that interested. I’d recommended any young person to get involved with the Youth Parliament,” she said.

“I feel it’s so important young people feel part of the democratic process.

“It would be great if more schools get involved, it’s a fantastic scheme.”

The Sheffield MYPs are calling on local schools, colleges and youth groups to help give young people a voice nationally by taking part in the annual Make Your Mark ballot.

Young people across the UK will be asked what issues matter most to them to determine what is debated by the UK Youth Parliament in the Commons on November 11.