A growing population, a huge reduction in funding for youth services and pressures on housing and communities have all left young Londoners concerned for how they will get to enjoy the opportunities within the capital, according to Young People’s Capital of the World? a new report launched by London Youth in partnership with Centre for London and UBS.
But despite the challenges, young people do retain a clear spirit of optimism, and a strong desire to shape their own futures: they say they just need more support, and a stronger voice to influence how London evolves.
Informed by interviews by young people of their peers in 5 London boroughs, and supplemented by further insights from youth professionals, and analysis of data on how London is changing, the report is clear about the challenges that this presents for young Londoners.
- Pressure on services: London’s youth population is growing an almost unprecedented rate, and at the same time funding for services aimed at giving them support and opportunity outside school have been drastically reduced. The shift towards supporting only the most vulnerable means that many young people may be missing out.
- Cost of living and housing: far too many young Londoners are growing up in families facing poverty or struggling to meet the high cost of living in the capital. Young people feel excluded from the changes that are taking place in their communities, and are pessimistic about their chances of ever getting their own place.
- Wellbeing and the environment: young Londoners are acutely aware that these pressures can sometimes make London a hard place to grow up and are concerned about basic access to outside space and clean air. Mental health and obesity continue to remain major concerns for our youth population.
But as well as being aware of the challenges London faces, young people are also optimistic, and their views have shaped the report’s recommendations, which recognise the multiple pressures and demands on London, but nevertheless propose a series of positive steps.
Among the 8 recommendations, the report argues for:
- The Mayor to challenge London’s local authorities to set out clear plans for how they will work with others to support young people, and involve young Londoners in shaping those services.
- Young people to have a much bigger say in shaping their communities, through better consultation and planning, involving community organisations and reaching out to young people who might otherwise miss out on the benefits of regeneration.
- Better collaboration between funders – statutory, voluntary and private – to look at London’s changing needs and direct resources accordingly; and with a preference for services that are open to all young people, and not just targeting those who are in higher need.
Rosemary Watt-Wyness, Chief Executive of London Youth said:
‘Young people do face a huge amount of pressure as London changes. And cuts to services mean that many simply can’t access support outside of school. Everyone acknowledges that local authority funding is tight, but that does not negate the need for clear local strategies that respond to need. We want this report to set a clear direction for young people’s policy in London, and to help those who make decisions about investment and development to make better choices to support our future generations of Londoners.’
Nick Wright, Managing Director, Global & EMEA Community Affairs, UBS said:
‘This report provides a window into London from a youth perspective and provides recommendations for how to realise the potential of London’s young people. In times of reduced public funding the onus is on all sectors, including the private sector, to work collaboratively to help develop brighter futures for young people. The power of a report like this is the evidence that it provides to those interested in taking action. Although the challenges are great, these challenges open up new opportunities to tackle them. We hope that this report will help bring those opportunities to the forefront of the debate, and drive action to seize them.’
Silviya Barrett, Research Manager at Centre for London said:
“One in four of Londoners are young people. Rapidly growing in numbers and diversity, their needs have changed significantly in recent years. But austerity has forced the youth sector to focus on supporting the most vulnerable young people in our society while neglecting the diverse and changing needs of the wider youth population. Meanwhile the rates of young people who are not studying or working remain stubbornly high, despite improvements in schools. Central and local government, the voluntary and private sectors, funders and infrastructure organisations all need to play a role in shaping services to best support our young people to full fill their potential.”