16 July 2021
Following the Prime Minister’s “Levelling Up” speech on 15th July, London Youth’s CEO Rosemary Watt-Wyness has published the below statement:
“Levelling up is needed within regions, not just between regions as the PM’s speech highlighted. Cities in the North West are far from being homogenous, and the same is true for London, and more so, given its own additional and unique structural inequalities. We know, for example, that Barking and Dagenham are in the top tier of Local Authorities in England with populations who were already amongst the most deprived in the country, and sadly, the pandemic has deepened and widened these disparities. Government figures show that the death rates in London from Covid-19 are, alarmingly, more than 3 times higher
than in the region with the lowest rates, the South West.
Youth unemployment has also hit London hardest with the worst affected sectors like hospitality and retail claiming the heaviest toll. London Councils report that a third of young unemployed Londoners are in the 16-24 age bracket and were less likely to have been supported by furlough. Pre-Covid-19, Bangladeshi and Pakistani young people were twice as likely to be unemployed, and that rate of unemployment has only worsened with the pandemic. Racism, poor mental health and poverty have always been disproportionately high in London, and raise the barriers ever higher for disadvantaged young Londoners seeking employment.
Many of London Youth’s member organisations were already on their knees before Covid-19 struck, having weathered painful austerity cuts as our June 2020 “Running on Reserves”
survey highlighted. Youth clubs have worked tirelessly over the last 18 months to keep their doors open for young Londoners, providing them with a safe space, the opportunity to gain new skills and be supported by youth workers they know and trust in their communities. Yet many of these youth organisations now face the risk of closure, just when their support for the physical and mental wellbeing of the city’s most vulnerable young people is needed the most.
Boris talks about meeting the needs of the most vulnerable, such as those supported by London Youth’s members. It is essential that the framing of Levelling Up in the future White Paper allows a conversation about how those grassroots youth organisations, who are best connected to the hardest to reach young people, can help inform solutions and drive the right outcomes.”
We will continue to engage with this issue in consultation with our membership and our youth board. We welcome any members to contact us to share their views.