At the beginning of youth work week, despite the new lockdown let's be positive. Most young people are toughing the pandemic and lockdown out like the rest of us. From dancing in bedrooms to learning new skills, young people are generally resilient. They understand what is going on, that it won’t last forever and that their lives will get back on track in time. Families are supportive and services exist to support young people where they need it.   

One young person we are working with said he is ‘looking forward to the explosion of energy and creativity that is going to come when all of this is over’. Young people are learning a hard lesson (as we all are) that life is unpredictable and that every moment is precious.  Precious too is what we do with those moments to help others. Many are volunteering and helping in their local communities; many understand what really matters in life - from tackling racism and prejudice to climate change. They are taking their passions and beliefs to the streets to change our world for the better.   

But we could and should be doing more because we know young people are being disproportionately hit by lockdown.   

We know things are tough for young people. When you are starting out in life you don’t have experience to fall back on, you are the easiest to ‘let go’ at work and growing up in a pandemic puts a harder than usual strain on your mental health.   

In Bristol and across the country we are seeing a doubling of youth unemployment. Young people are twice as likely to have lost their job and nearly 60% have seen a fall in income. 

We don’t have data yet on mental health but anecdotally, at Creative Youth Network, we are seeing a 72% rise in those needing support. Many are losing valuable years of education – the single best way to equalise our society.

In order to support young people there are two key things we should be doing better. 

Education

I hear it from young people and parents and now the data is starting to show. A quarter of young people had no schooling during Spring lockdown and only 38% of those in state schools had full days of schooling. 74% in Private schools did. The difference between the two is palpable and totally unacceptable.     

Private schools quickly put lessons online, expected students to arrive on time and take part. They experimented with different ways of teaching and the school day settled down quickly. 

In contrast state schools had little or no contact with their children – stories of weekly homework through the post, no online lessons, unmarked work and little or no contact between teachers and pupils were the norm. It is fair to say that state schools have less funding and less kit, some students also do not have the access to equipment or data they need to get online. But this is not an excuse. We are still hearing stories of schools sending pupils home this term. 

We must make sure young people have the support they need if they are struggling  

Mental Health, digital poverty and support to get a job are vital if we are going to see the most vulnerable through these difficult times.  Creative Youth Network is investing in more support for young unemployed young people and we continue to work with partners to offer support for those struggling with their mental health. 

But we know there are young people out there we are not reaching and the threat of long term unemployment is real. The risk of wasted talent and creativity is real. Our Creative YOU campaign highlights the need to maintain young peoples creativity, a vital quality in any future employment. Now is the time we should be investing in young people so when this is all over we can all benefit from their energy, skill and creativity.    

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