Over the last few years The Prince’s Trust Youth Index has been a sobering read. This year nothing has changed, the findings show that young people feel powerless, unable to control their lives, anxious about their futures and crippled with anxiety about their self-image. The Youth Index shows more than a quarter (28%) of young people don’t feel in control of their own lives, 45% feel stressed about their body image, and 18% say they don’t believe they can change their circumstances if they want to. Over half (58%) say recent political events make them feel anxious about their futures, and 42% think traditional goals such as owning a house or getting a steady job are unrealistic.
Young people are growing up in a world where they feel under enormous pressure – many experience ongoing stresses at school, bullying, body image issues, sexual pressures, poverty and inequality, an online culture that bombards them with messages about perfection and great uncertainty about their adult futures.
There is much more that needs to be done to create the structural conditions where young people can flourish. This must encompass all spheres of their lives; education, family relationships, addressing poverty, inequality and prejudice and the online world they inhabit and its risks. This must happen for all young people regardless of their backgrounds, class, faith or culture.
But we also have to address their inner confidence, their resilience and grit – a phrase we coined in our seminal publication Grit in 2010.
Because young people are growing up at a time when they face increasingly complex challenges and hurdles its impacting on their mental health and affecting 1 in 3 children in every classroom. These children will face labour markets which require them to demonstrate effective social and emotional competencies and capabilities. Persistence, self-motivation and confidence are all resilient traits which help us all get through life but with the dominant results-based culture that persists in schools, there is little provision to help young people grow these skills.
The Prime Minister’s speech today on a shared society for all and a rallying call on children and young people’s mental health is welcome. However ‘shared’ must encompass responding to the extensive needs of young people, and more reviews of mental health services are all very well as long as children and young people get the help they so desperately need.
For the past 60 years, The Young Foundation, and its predecessors and spin-offs, have worked to support young people to live resilient and fulfilled lives. We are passionate about reducing the inequality they face and work alongside governments, schools, universities, funders, charities, social enterprises and businesses to do so.
We run the Young Academy which has helped over 50 ventures whose work raises the educational attainment of disadvantaged young people in England to develop and scale up.
Our work also includes Realising Ambition, the Young Persons Outcomes Framework and the pioneering of the Studio Schools movement. We are also working with Newham Council and co-creation agency, Latimer, on a programme funded by The Big Lottery HeadStart programme to design and develop an energising and effective resilience initiative , Bounce Back Newham. Originally focusing on building resilience and wellbeing in 10- to 14-year-olds, with their parents and carers, from 2017 we are extending the programme to include 9- to 11-year olds.
We are really proud of our work with young people but there is so much more to do. The Prince’s Trust has again graphically illustrated the scale of the problem and we believe the work they are doing with thousands of young people to address the issues highlighted is vital.
We believe we have a duty to give young people the best possible start in life and we are proud of our role in creating, incubating and scaling up a range of ventures such as Uprising, Vi-ability, Fearless Futures and HumanUtopia, to name just a few that are doing amazing things to make that happen. Young people need every bit of help, support and empowerment they can get and we are really pleased to be making a key contribution to this.