Expressing your views
As you get older you earn the right to make more decisions about your life. You can choose to talk to services without your parents being with you and take decisions for yourself.
Some young people may need help to express their views. An advocate or someone to speak for you may be able to help.
However, some young people (and possibly some parents) will not have the mental capacity to make certain decisions. For example, if you have a diagnosis such as learning disability, autism, brain injury or if you have a mental health need it might be necessary to complete an assessment of your ability to make a specific decision.
The Mental Capacity Act (2005) and the Children and Families Act (2014) set out five key principles relating to those who may lack capacity:
- It should be assumed that everyone can make their own decisions unless it is proved otherwise.
- A person should have all the help and support possible to make and communicate their own decision before anyone concludes that they lack capacity to make their own decision.
- A person should not be treated as lacking capacity just because they make an unwise decision.
- Actions or decisions carried out on behalf of someone who lacks capacity must be in their best interests.
- Actions or decisions carried out on behalf of someone who lacks capacity should limit their rights and freedom of action as little as possible.
When a group of people vote, they exercise their freedom and right to choose. This is known as democracy. Voting this way is sometimes called an election, a poll, or a ballet. There are different elections in the UK that we can vote in. We vote for someone to represent us and make decisions for us. They make important decisions that can affect all our lives.
In adult local and national elections, you are allowed to vote, if you are:
- age 18 or older
- a British, Irish or qualifying Commonwealth citizen
- Living in the UK
In elections people with a learning disability or mental health need have the same rights to vote as everybody else.
For government elections you must register to receive your voting papers. BUT you can register from the age of 16! You can register to vote online at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote You need to register to vote every time you move home. This is when you say how you would like to vote.
You vote by marking your choice on a ballot paper. This can be:
- At a polling station – Before an election you will be posted a poll card. Your poll card will tell you where your polling station is. Polling stations are often at churches, community centres and schools. You will put your ballot paper into a box.
- By post – Before elections, you will receive a ballot paper in the post and an envelope to post it back before the voting date.
- By proxy – choosing someone else to vote for you. This person can visit a polling station or apply for a postal vote in order to vote on your behalf.
You cannot vote online in any government, adult elections.
If you choose to vote at a polling station, there will be a number of accessibilities measures available to help you cast your vote:
- Tactile voting devices and large print sample versions of the ballot paper, to help blind or partially sighted voters mark their ballot paper. You can also take your phone into the polling booth and use the magnifier, torch, or text- to-speech apps, to help you vote.
- You can ask polling station staff for help to cast your vote, and you can bring someone with you who is eligible to vote in the election, to help you.
- Wheelchair accessible polling stations and booths. Each polling station should have an entry/exit ramp or a separate entrance, so that everyone can access it. Once inside, every polling station will have a wheelchair accessible polling booth.
Everyone should be able to cast their vote independently and with confidence.
You will need to show photo ID when voting in person. It must be a driver’s licence or a passport.