Definition of Youth

The transversal youth policy framework Positive for Youth (2011) targets young people 13 to 19 years old.


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 18
  • 16
  • 16
  • Female
  • 18
  • 16
  • 16

  • Same-sex marriage legal. In Northern Ireland, civil partnerships, rather than same-sex marriage exists. Source: UNSD, ILGA, nidirect (n.d)

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
Age applies to the UK, except Scotland, where it is 12 years. Source:  Children & Young Persons Act
Scotland Criminal Justice and Licensing Act

Majority Age


Source: Family Law Reform Act (1969)

Voting Age


Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • -- Male (15-24) %
  • -- Female (15-24) %
  • Year: No data.
  • Source: UNESCO

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • 94.50%Male %
  • 94.77% Female %

Situation of Young People

Prevalence of HIV

Male (15-24) %
Female (15-24) %

Tobacco Use

Consumed any smokeless or smoking tobacco product at least once 30 days prior to the survey.
Both sexes (13-15) %
  • -- Male (13-15) %
  • -- Female (13-15) %
  • Year: No data.
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
The UK has a transversal youth policy framework, Positive for Youth. Briefings from 2010 and 2012 exist.

England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales all have recent youth policy and/or youth work strategies. Wales has developed a 2014 – 2018 National Youth Work Strategy, and Scotland a 2014 – 2019 National Youth Work Strategy. Both build on civil society consultations and have a transversal approach. Northern Ireland has a youth work policy Priorities for Youth.

Positive for Youth (2011) contains a number of policies that apply across the UK.It is a cross-sector strategy, which encourages actors to work together to support positive youth development. The policy strategy features a decentralised approach, with youth centres, statutory provisions and services delivered by Local Authorities.  A 2013 update suggests positive progress, however a number of concerns have been raised.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
In a press release on 3 July 2013, it was announced that responsibility for youth policy would be transferred from the Ministry of Education to the Cabinet Office - a cross-thematic Ministry which directly supports the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. However, no youth department exists. The Cabinet Office focuses on national programmes, such as the National Citizenship Service, while most youth provisions and services are provided at a local and city level of government. Scotland has a Minister for Children and Young People and Minister for Youth Employment.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
The British Youth Council (BYC) is an umbrella organisation made up of over 230 national and local youth organisations, which supports young people “to influence and inform decisions that affect their lives.” Member organisations elect an annual board of young trustees (aged 16 to 25) and guide all policy and strategic decisions. BYC delivers campaigns such as Votes at 16, and participation programmes such the UK Youth Parliament and the international UK Young Ambassadors. BYC is a full member of the European Youth Forum and Commonwealth Youth Council.

Budget & Spending

What is the budget allocated to the governmental authority (ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth and/or youth programming?
Since youth policies are cross-sectoral a specific amount allocated to youth cannot be identified. According to the World Bank, the United Kingdom spent 13.32% of its government expenditure and 6.23% of its GDP on education provision in 2010.
Total Expenditure on Education as a Percentage of Government Spending and GDP

  • % of GDP
  • % of gov. expenditure

Source: World Bank
Gaps indicate missing data from the original data source. (Accessed May 2014).

Additional Background

From the 2013 Positive for Youth progress update:
The past year has seen a significant increase in the involvement of young people in the development of Government policy. The UK Youth Parliament has gone from strength to strength, with a quarter of a million young people voting to select the issues debated at the Parliament’s annual Commons sitting in November 2012. Members of Parliament who attended the sitting were hugely impressed by the high calibre of the speakers who were amongst the members of the parliament representing their peers from across the country.
From 2013 Positive for Youth – What it means for Young People paper:
The Government wants every local authority to have a group of young people that is able to represent your views in decisions about local services. It also wants young people to be involved in inspecting the quality of these services.
Young people say they are tired of getting a bad press. The Government wants your achievements and positive contributions to society to be recognised and celebrated. It wants you to speak up when you see negative media images and reporting that you think is unfair or unhelpful.
Infed provides a critical analysis of how Positive for Youth might impact youth services and youth work practices, and young people as a result:
Local authorities are under no obligation to provide youth services, and given the government line is ‘where practically possible’ this means many areas could be left with no effective provision. It is likely that the number of commercial organisations offering activities and experiences for young people will increase to respond to demand for those who can afford to pay for provision. The number of private organisations involved in National Citizen’s Service (NCS) will increase (...)
The 2014 BBC article highlights:
The amount of money spent on services for teenagers in England has fallen by 36% in the past two years, according to figures released to the BBC.
Former children's minister, Tory MP Tim Loughton, said the £438m reduction in spending was "disproportionate".
Youth workers warned that the long-term cost of the cuts would be "enormous".
But the Local Government Association said funding cuts meant there were "no easy choices" and spending on things like child protection came first.
The figures, released to BBC Radio 4's World at One after a Freedom of Information request to the Department for Education, outline the amount spent by local authorities on providing services like youth clubs and other out-of-school activities.
The spending also covers education for excluded pupils, teenage pregnancy services and drug and alcohol support programmes.