08 December 2022
On 28 November London Youth attended the All Party Parliamentary Group for Youth at Westminster. The APPG is chaired by Jo Gideon MP (Con) and supported by other cross-party MPs. The Secretariat is managed by the British Youth Council and the YMCA.
This session was designed to highlight the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on young people, and to hear direct from those at the event.
We were pleased to join with five young people from our Youth Board, and members of our Policy Advisory Group with their young people.
Food poverty was a key theme of the discussion, which many young people raised, alongside the pressure on energy and travel costs. Sadly, too many children and young people are feeling anxious they are a burden to their parents; others are regulating what they are eating so that others in the family can eat, exercising portion control, or going without.
One participant highlighted a ratio of 2:1 of foodbanks to McDonald’s restaurants and that there are 800,000 young people not getting free school meals. This is driving ever greater reliance on foodbanks.
Other young attendees illustrated how challenging it was to concentrate on academia if you were hungry or cold. The reality of this situation in secondary schools was also highlighted by teachers in a report by the Sutton Trust, published this week.
Young carers spoke about leaving further education to work and care for their families which in turn means they do not receive the education they need to break the cycle of poverty for the family in the future.
Given the current mental health emergency, many young people feel isolated and unsupported. There are insufficient safe spaces out of school, such as youth clubs, and there are unreasonably long waiting lists for mental health support.
Several young people spoke about the cuts in youth services and the consequences of this. The average spending on young people has gone from £158 per individual to £37 in the last decade. Young people called this a moral failure.
Adult responsibilities and young carers
Children and young people spoke about having to shoulder adult responsibilities that they are not mentally prepared or mature enough to manage.
Others pointed to a criminal justice system which is often dealing with young people who are victims of crime and disadvantage (and in some instances stealing to give money to parents).
London Youth members, young people and our Youth Board questioned:
- How young people – and particularly those under 25 – can afford to live off the minimum wage, and particularly in London
- How those from larger families and where a parent is disabled will get additional support – particularly when shouldering anxiety about the future and the viability of family income
- The severity of mental health emergencies which cause isolation– young people get referred to an online form or an automated system which just reinforces isolation. Youth clubs provide a vital lifeline but more specialist support is required
MPs at the APPG heard that young people were demanding change. They sought inter-generational fairness, a minimum wage that was sustainable, affordable travel and access to quality food, places to go where they feel safe and supported, and a policy landscape where their voices were integral to decisions that were shaping their future. The Chair said she would be drawing upon the evidence of the session, and acknowledged that young people’s voices needed to be more at the forefront of policy decisions.
We are exploring how we can further spotlight how young Londoners in particular are impacted by the cost-of-living crisis with London MPs in the new year.
Please contact our Policy Manager firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to join our Policy Advisory Group.