Supporting and challenging young people to become the best they can be
Across London young people need opportunities outside education and the home to have fun with their friends, to be healthy and creative, to make positive change in their communities, and to shape the kind of city they want for the future.
London Youth, together with our network of over 450 community organisations, creates opportunities for tens of thousands of young people every year. With local authority funding greatly reduced and activities for young people being lost as a direct result, it is more important than ever to invest in our network, youth workers and the young people they support.
Why our work is needed now more than ever
Our three year strategy for 2017-2020 reflects the challenging context of growing up in London today. Whilst London is an extraordinary city, it is also going through major change, growth and uncertainty. This impacts dramatically on the young people living here and the many youth organisations facing challenges to survive.
Young Londoners are losing the activities and safe, open access spaces vital for their well-being and personal development. With no statutory duty to provide positive activities for young people outside of school and under pressure to make ongoing savings, London councils have cut £22 million from their youth service budgets since 2011/12. London’s Lost Youth Services report found that in five councils alone, 12,700 places had been lost due to cuts – extrapolated across all 32 boroughs, this equates to 81,280 places for young people are no longer available.
As services decline, the population of young people in London is increasing. London’s youth population is changing at an unprecedented rate. Currently, 2,879,900 children and young people aged 0-25 live in London – one third of the population of the capital. The capital’s youth population is growing almost as fast as the working age population, with nearly one in four Londoners now under the age of 18. However, this population growth has major implications for youth organisations already at capacity and for areas where services have already been significantly reduced.
Young Londoners face complex challenges more pronounced than elsewhere in the UK. Young people are talented, committed and incredibly resourceful in spite of the challenges they face. London is the most unequal place to live in the UK and the lack of a level playing field impacts on children and young people more than other age groups: 37% (700,000) live in poverty, and 57%(1.1 million) live in households with income below the minimum income standard. Yet housing costs, inflation and cost of living continues to climb, making it harder for young people to live independently and many fear they’ll get priced out and won’t be able to live in the capital as adults. And finding full time employment remains a challenge with unemployment in London two and a half times higher for 16-24 year olds than for 25-64s. The number of young people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds who have been unemployed for more than a year has risen by almost 50% since 2010.
All of this is taking its toll on young people’s resilience and well-being. We are seeing that young people’s struggles with emotional wellbeing and mental health are at record levels. And this is even more profound amongst young people in London. In 2014/15, 1 in 6 (15.5%) 15 year olds in London reported a low life satisfaction; this is significantly higher than the rest of England and is the highest of all regions in the country. The rate of children aged 0-17 years being admitted to hospital for mental health illnesses is higher in London than the rest of the country (94.2 per 100,000 compared to 87.4 per 100,00).
The organisations which work to support young people with these challenges are still facing further threats to their future. Council cuts to youth services have led to closure of youth organisations in some areas and further cuts are likely to have the same impact. Meanwhile, for these organisations there has been a shift in the type of funding available towards heavily targeted programmes. There has been a general trend away from funding universal, open access provision. The effect is two-fold: a lack of early help for young people whose needs may not be immediately obvious or who may not meet intervention criteria; and fewer opportunities for young people, particularly from less wealthy backgrounds.
Sources: Trust for London, 2015; Trust for London, 2017; London’s Poverty Profile; Young People Count, Partnership for Young London, 2016; Public Health England, 2016.
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