“Think about young people as a new minority group”

During the year, the Permanent Secretary has asked young people to talk to The Scottish Government and talk about the issues they care about.

The theme of ‘Equality and Diversity’ honestly bugs me a lot.

I’ve been an activist with LGBT Youth Scotland (and other third sector organisations) since I was 14. I have been involved in lots of community activism work for as long as I can remember and I have lots to say, like any professional, when it comes to equality and diversity. I like to think I’m a bit of an expert when it comes to this subject. Yet, sometimes it still feels like equality and diversity is sometimes a bit of an ‘add on’.

Let me tell you what I think.

Making sure that all of Scotland’s young people have a fair and equal chance to be successful, educated and happy shouldn’t be an add on to the agenda. I get that making sure that Suzie from Argyle and Robert from Stirling have the same opportunities isn’t always easy, you are all busy people with lots of different testing jobs to be doing. Next time you are looking at a project or proposal, instead of thinking about only minority groups, I would urge you to think about young people as a new minority group. It’s vital that young people are represented in everything that you do, if we are ever to succeed in making Scotland the best place in the world to grow up.

Young people are amazing, diverse and extremely talented in their own ways, each and every single one of them. Sometimes it’s easy to tick a box that says, “we support equal opportunities”, but think about it – when was the last time that equal opportunities were fully ingrained within your entire project? Did the last project you worked on provide equal opportunity without changing the way it works, or if an LGBT young person or a black young person gets involved with your most recent project, would they feel like an afterthought? Being challenged is difficult, it’s hard to change the way we think or work, but I know from experience that when Government sits down and talks about equal opportunities, sometimes it’s too late.

The Year of Young People 2018 is encouraging everyone to co-design services with young people, the new Youth Commission on Mental Health Services is a fantastic example of this. What will you do to make sure all young people in Scotland can fulfil their potential, regardless of any characteristic?