Young people in Wales have sent a strong message ahead of this year’s local elections – we need better access to mental health services, affordable green travel and action to tackle climate injustice and the nature emergency.

With just five weeks until Wales goes to the polls, the Future Generations Commissioner, Sophie Howe, has launched her Manifesto for the Future: Our Local Elections, which has been developed with young people across Wales. 

Sophie Howe’s role as the UK’s first Future Generations Commissioner is to protect the interests of future generations, under Wales’ Well-being of Future Generations Act.

The commissioner, in partnership with Omidaze Productions, is developing The Democracy Box project which is exploring how young people can creatively inform and engage all generations about our democracy. As part of her work, and the Act’s guidance that public bodies including Welsh Government should involve a range of voices in their decision-making, the Commissioner has been collaborating with The Democracy Box young co-creators, a group of young people aged 16-26, born or based in Wales.

The new manifesto contains 52 key recommendations – proposing a bold package of measures tackling the climate and nature emergencies in a way that also promotes well-being and alleviates the cost of living crisis. Recommendations have been made with the help of young people, many of whom will be voting for the first time on May 5.

Recommendations include: 

  • Investing in nature and prioritising funding and support for large-scale habitat and wildlife restoration, creation and connectivity.
  • Introducing free public transport for young people in Wales.
  • Supporting measures to address fuel poverty, including retrofitting of local housing stock.
  • Supporting non-medical initiatives known as ‘social prescribing’ (e.g. sport, volunteering, cultural activities) to boost health and well-being within communities.
  • Acting in line with the Welsh Government’s Nation of Sanctuary principles and demonstrate how local key services and provisions like transport, education and housing will support this vision.

Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe, said: 

“It’s vital that young people have an opportunity to shape their future, that politicians listen to them and use the Well-being of Future Generations Act to create the Wales we all want. People in Wales currently face a huge number of challenges including the cost of living crisis, high levels of income and health inequality, fuel poverty, mental health and social isolation. 

“Now is the time for local authorities to adopt a bold package of measures to address these challenges in ways that bring about well-being benefits to everyone. Making access to public transport easier, investing in fuel efficient homes, improving access to green spaces are all ways to improve health and well-being while also tackling multiple crises.  With smart policy-making, the problems of both the present and the future can be addressed at the same time, and making these connections is vital.

Our communities across Wales continue to face multiple challenges which must be addressed by local authorities and other partners. The tragic scenes in Ukraine and the ongoing climate and nature crises provide a difficult backdrop for these elections, but remind us of the role that our communities and democratic institutions can play in striving for a better world for future generations.”

The Democracy Box Contributor, Eva Franklin 16, of Caerphilly, said: 

Our voices as young people are so important because we are the future, so we should speak up about issues in order to shape the best future for us to inherit. 

“The Well-being for Future Generations Act is vital in ensuring that decision makers pave the best possible path for us to take over. Wales is the only country in the world to have this act in place which makes me proud to be Welsh! 

“I will be able to vote for the first time in the upcoming local elections and it is crucial that young people like me get to the polls and have our say because it is the most direct way to have your voices heard.”

The Democracy Box podcast series is one of many ways the young co-creators are creatively re-telling the story of our democracy so that everyone can understand and participate in our democracy.

You can listen to the first two of six brand new The Democracy Box podcast episodes which have been created through this new partnership and focus specifically on increasing awareness and understanding of the Act. The first two of six bilingual episodes feature a look-ahead to the local elections on May 5, the Well-being of Future Generations Act and the commissioner’s manifesto, and are available on Apple and Spotify now.

Hosted by The Democracy Box co-creators Lloyd Mann, 17, from Monmouth, Olivia Winter, 17, from Dinas Powys, Katherine Rees, 24, from Swansea and Rhys Alexander, 18, of Cardiff, and in conversation with young members of the commissioner’s team, they explore their understanding of the Well-being of Future Generations Act, what a manifesto is and the importance of voting. 

The partnership has also commissioned three new music tracks and videos from the young co-creators celebrating and explaining the Act. 

The first of these Where Will We Be, was written and performed by Democracy Box young co-creators Saskia Pay, 27, from the Vale of Glamorgan, and Blank Face, aka Josh Whyte, 24 from Cardiff.

The song asks for ‘solutions not excuses’ and was partly inspired by a speech given by the Future Generations Commissioner, Sophie Howe to the United Nations. 

The commissioner also runs a Future Generations Leadership Academy and employs a Poet in Residence – currently held by Taylor Edmonds, 26, from Penarth. Both Taylor and members of the Academy feature in this new, six-part, podcast series by The Democracy Box.