Focus: Finance and Governance - Trustee talk

Rachel Harrington Vice-chair of the British Youth Council

Society is constantly guilty of seeing young people as citizens of tomorrow when they are citizens of today. They deserve the right to be involved with, and have a say in, decisions that affect them.

This is especially so in relation to the governance of organisations that provide services for young people or act as a voice on their behalf.

The British Youth Council is an unincorporated charity whose trustees are all aged between 18 and 25. Most unincorporated charities do not have young people as trustees. While young people should be able to choose their level of involvement in an organisation, they must no longer be excluded from governance and left pleading to have more power and say in the charity's strategy.

Young people under 18 are unable to be trustees of an unincorporated charity, which is the status of most voluntary organisations, denying them a seat at the table of governance. This needs to be corrected.

Charities pride themselves on consulting young people on the services they'd like to see, yet constantly put into practice the tokenism they detest by denying young people the opportunity to direct such services, rather than simply comment on them.

It's time for young people to have equal power and authority as adults as part of accepted practice. They must not be handed a solitary tokenistic place, but supported in playing a full and active role in a charity's governance.

The Charities Bill, being discussed in the House of Lords, is an opportunity to kick out the old system of all-adult trustees for youth charities and allow young people, including those under 18, to be given equal status and a voice in the governance of unincorporated charities. Young people are ready, willing and able to contribute, ensuring their voices are heard at a strategic level.

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