Young Campaigner Award

Don’t Zap the Zip

Listen to young people. We are not the future, we are the now.

The Campaign

At the start of the pandemic the Government announced a suspension of London’s concessionary travel programmes, including the Zip Card for under-18seven making the scrapping of free travel a bailout condition for Transport for London (TfL). It was a decision that would disproportionately hit low-income families at a time already defined by stretched finances and uncertainty. 

 School children from across London began to raise awareness of how important free travel is to young Londoners. Using many different campaign tactics, The campaign attracted huge attention on social media, catching the attention of celebrities, including Dua Lipa and Joe Lycett, and outlets like Vogue, the Huffington Post and the Metro.

Joshua Brown-Smith, 14, from Lewisham, launched an online petition calling for the Government to reverse its decision, which had already gained more than 200,000 signatures. A second petition, launched by 17-year-old Olivia Faria, gained more than 150,000 signatures.  Alongside this, members of the UK Youth Parliament wrote an open letter to the Government calling on the government to re-evaluate their proposals and reinstate free travel. 

There was a call for unity between the many campaigns, and all of this great work was then unified under one hashtag: #DontZapTheZip. 

The Change

By putting free travel on the political agenda, Don’t Zap the Zip convinced Sadiq Khan to fight for the U18 Zip Card and its funding. The removal of concessionary travel for young people from the TfL bailout also transferred funding of the Zip Card to the Mayor of London. The current funding deal is only for six months, but only one of the candidates in the upcoming Mayoral elections is yet to pledge to keeping the Zip Card. 

Getting the Government to U-turn on scrapping free travel was a huge victory for young and older Londoners – and an impressive cross-generational collaboration between organisations like the Child Poverty Action Group and Age UK 

The removal of the Zip Card would have been a huge barrier to young people getting to school, college, healthcare appointments, or just to see their family and friends, and protecting it removes an anxiety for thousands of young Londoners. 


The Future

The young people behind Don’t Zap the Zip are talking to the Members of the UK’s Youth Parliament about starting similar free travel campaigns in their regions, using the lessons learned from the win in London to campaign for change nationwide.  

The speed with which Don’t Zap the Zip was set up during a pandemic is a huge testament to the work of the campaigners behind it. The Child Poverty Action Group is continuing to campaign against the drivers of child poverty in London. 

Who else was involved?

The wider Child Poverty Action Group, several Members of Youth Parliament, London Travelwatch, London Councils, schools and colleges, Partnership Young London and Citizens UK.

Joshua Brown Smith, Olivia Faria, Maryam, Kainaat Siddiqi, Raphael Leon, Elia Yousf, Hammad Malik, Shea Williams, Taif, Faizan Ahmed, Loshini Suben, Theo Sergiou, Ozan Erder, Markus Conneely, Isra Sul, Will Awomoyi, Hasan Patel and Ahmed Rahman Labib.