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PRESS RELEASE: The next generation of young BME’s need a better reason to vote!

Published: 27 Jun 2014


The next generation of young BME’s need a better reason to vote!

With the General Election just around the corner, a new generation of young people will be eligible to vote. Yet recent research carried out by charity Toynbee Hall, led by young Black Minority and Ethnic women shows a clear perception that politics is too far removed from (their) age, class, gender, location and grades. A research participant said, “I don’t think politics is targeted at teenagers... And if it is... then it’s kind of limited to... students that have higher grades... the more academically clever”. Adding, “That’s what politics means. Rich guys own the country”.

Aware of their marginalised status as ethnic minority young women and all coming from Tower Hamlets and Hackney, two of the most deprived boroughs in the country, the ‘Rebel Researchers’ have been exploring the idea of voice and politics with their peers. Working with Toynbee Hall, they have received accredited training in a year-long project as social researchers in order to undertake peer-to-peer research. By taking this approach the project has put young people at the front and centre of the research, ensuring their voice is the one that is heard.

The early research findings suggest that young people perceive the problem of political engagement to be a lack of institutions that are prepared – or willing – to listen to them. They want authentic participation, to know it could actually change something.

I dislike politics. Conservative Party sucks. Don’t really know much about politics, it’s boring, not particularly interesting.” But went on to say, “I’m a black young person and I’m like, I live in Hackney, and I like the Labour Party, but I do think that certain types of groups and compositions benefit from certain parties more. I feel like upper class people benefit more from the Conservatives, lower class people benefit more from Labour, hence the name Labour, so yeah.”
A response from one of the interviewee's involved in the research

Graham Fisher, Chief Executive, said “This research highlights the failure of institutions to effectively connect with young people. Although the UK has one of the most successful democracies in the world it is clearly not working for our young people today. If we carry on as we are, we run the risk of creating a disengaged generation.”

Academic lead Rys Farthing, Barnett Research Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Department of Social Policy and Intervention, reflected on the process saying, “There was a general sense that ‘politics’ was a sort of known unknown, they knew it existed, but they don’t know what it is. Yet they often were able to eloquently make powerful and frank statements.”

The ‘Rebel Researchers’, from Tower Hamlets and Hackney, will be presenting these findings at academic conferences throughout the UK, including Oxford University. Through this unique forum, charity Toynbee Hall is continuing its innovative roots of social research to ensure that the most deprived communities in the UK have a voice to tackle social injustice.

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Notes to editors:

  1. For more information contact Alexandra Wilkinson, Communications & Events Coordinator, on 020 7392 2925 or email
  2. The research was conducted within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Hackney, with 5 focus groups. Surveys and questionnaires are due to be conducted with local schools.
  3. Academic conferences are being held in Sheffield University on July 1st, Brighton University on July 5th and Oxford University on 12th July.
  4. The name ‘Rebel Researchers’ was picked by the group to show the difference between themselves and ‘traditional’ academics. In light of their marginalised status as ethnic minority young women, from two highly deprived boroughs in East London, they have been exploring the idea of voice and politics.
  5. Six areas of possible participation were investigated: national politics, local politics, schools, youth clubs, family and social media. Only three were selected as places were young people felt they could speak. And more worryingly, only some felt schools were places they felt they were heard and listened to, and in families they felt they weren’t often able to speak
  6. The full report will be available in early 2015.
  7. Toynbee Hall, founded in 1884, is a community organisation that pioneers ways to reduce poverty and disadvantage.  Based in the East End of London, it gives some of the country’s most deprived communities a voice, providing access to free advice and support services and working with them to tackle social injustice. Toynbee Hall provides day-to-day support and assistance to people throughout London.
  8. Toynbee Hall has been a catalyst for social reform in the UK for almost 130 years, and continues to bring together communities, organisations and policy makers to create new ways to help those who find themselves in poverty today.
  9. High quality photos of service users and the surrounding area are available on request
  10. Both Amira Mohamed-Raouf, Youth Services Manager, is available for interview to speak about the project, and, Rys Farthing, Barnett Research Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Department of Social Policy and Intervention, are available for interview to speak about the partnership and findings.