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Youth Parliament: How Seth Burke Is An Unwitting Political Pioneer

December 2, 2021

He has already learned to ride a trike after his parents were told he wouldn’t – and now Seth Burke is preparing to be an unintentional political pioneer.

The 13-year-old will become the first person to use a wheelchair to be sworn into the Senedd as one of 60 elected into the Welsh Youth Parliament.

Seth suffers from rare muscle wasting condition Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and will meet fellow members next year.

He wants to use his position to help shape future Welsh policies.

“I think I’m the first in the Senedd with and I want to set an example to other children in Wales to follow their dreams,” said Seth from the Vale of Glamorgan.

“I think that sometimes because it’s been difficult for me, I want to make it easier for everyone.”

Seth has never allowed his lifelong progressive condition hold him back and now the scout from Dinas Powys wants to inspire other people with disabilities to help shape their county.

A few years ago he performed a duet with his singing idol Dolly Parton on her famous song Jolene on a Caribbean cruise with his family, now he’s using his voice to a different effect.

“I want to do stuff like work with mental health and I also want to help the environment, because the climate struggle is getting bad,” said Seth, a student at St Cyres in Penarth, the former school of paralympic legend and House of Lords peer Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.

Seth is already trying to make a difference to people’s lives and has taken part in medical trials, in the hope of helping others with his condition.

And as a member of the council for his school year, he helped come up with ‘Wellness Wednesdays’ and had ideas about how to make online learning less intense for pupils at the height of the pandemic.

“He’s not shy in coming forward with an idea,” said head teacher of St Cyres Simon Morris.

“They are very mature ideas and they are wonderful and he will sit and listen to the views of others, and is respectful, but he’s not shy in saying if he thinks things can be done better.”

Seth will be the first wheelchair user to have a voice at the Senedd and discussions are being held there about possible rules to ensure political parties select a certain number of diverse candidates at future elections.

That’s so people with disabilities and people of different races, backgrounds, genders and age groups are represented.

“We need to work harder as a Senedd to make sure we are fully representative of the people of Wales and the youth parliament is showing us the way to do that,” said Senedd presiding officer Elin Jones.

The latest cohort of Welsh youth parliamentarians will formally take their seats in the new year when they meet each other in person for the first time at the Senedd and begin their time representing 11-17 year olds.

Nearly 300 candidates stood for 60 Welsh Youth Parliament seats and thousands of votes were cast by young people during a three-week campaigning period.

Some 40 constituency seats were decided by the online ballot with 20 members selected by organisations as the Welsh Parliament wanted representation from diverse groups of young people – and Seth’s name was put forward by Ty Hafan children’s hospice, where he receives care.

“No one goes out of their way to be obstructive or not support these families,” said chief executive Maria Timon Samra.

“But often that lack of understanding is there and we advocate very heavily on their behalf, but I think it will be very powerful for Seth to be able to do that from a lived experience.”

During their term until 2023, the members will focus on their main priority issues raised by candidates and young people around Wales.

The idea is that by meeting regularly, consulting with young people and conducting inquiries, members of the youth parliament will discuss the issues that matter most to young people and lobby elected politicians in the full Welsh Parliament.

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