MPs use YouTube in youth engagement drive

A mobile phone video starring a former minister may be circulating online forums such as YouTube next week in a bid to get young people’s views on crime.

John Denham’s broadcast is part of a new drive by the home affairs select committee, of which he is chairman, to get youngsters’ views in an area that arguably concerns them the most.

In a pilot initiative with the Hansard Society, he has made a video urging 16 to 25-year-olds to give their experiences of crime and explain why they think young people might break the law.

They will also be asked how far views held by the public and politicians about young people and crime reflect reality.

“We want young people to have their say on the broad issues that are important to them,” Ross Ferguson, director of e-democracy at the Hansard Society, told politics.co.uk.

People will be urged to send in their views to the Citizen Calling campaign via text, phone message or, as Mr Denham has, in video format. The answers will form the basis of the committee’s investigations into the criminal justice system in the autumn.

Efforts to tackle law and order have been focused on young people in recent years, with the introduction of the government’s ‘respect’ agenda, which includes the use anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) and dispersal orders against ‘disorderly’ youths.

While today’s initiative – the first of its kind – is not a direct reflection of that, Mr Ferguson admitted that the impact of crime on young people was inevitably a factor in the decision to choose the home affairs committee for the trial.

“Young people are not necessary victims or perpetrators, but crime – and their proximity to it – is such a big issue for young people,” he said.

Mr Denham’s broadcast, which will be available on www.citizencalling.com and could be circulated in online forums such as YouTube, has been filmed on a mobile phone to make it more authentic.

“The committee are keen to learn about how these issues are affecting you and your neighbourhood to provide a context for their inquiry into aspects of youth crime,” the former Home Office minister says.

“The project is a chance to let us know your views – what your experiences are, what you think is important and what government could do – in your own voice.”

Mr Ferguson is not expecting a huge response, but hopes the scheme will be extended to other parliamentary inquiries.

“The web has proved its worth in democratic engagement, but the number of people using the internet is dwarfed by mobiles. As technology progresses, we cannot ignore it,” he added.