Written by Faiza Amin, Membership Development Executive at UK Youth.
The Government announced earlier this year that £90 million will be invested from the Dormant Accounts Fund into a programme to support disadvantaged young people into employment. It comes at a time where the Race Disparity Audit has highlighted clear inequality of opportunity and progression for young people from different backgrounds, or growing up in different parts of England.
We’re committed to ensure the funding reaches those young people who need it the most. That’s why over the past few months we’ve been speaking with our members and young people across our network to help shape how this funding is rolled out. What’s been confirmed is that for some young people, the journeys to employment are far from easy or straightforward.
Below are key highlights of what we’ve heard about the barriers some young people face today and how we can best support them to navigate these complex journeys.
Barriers young people face
Work readiness programmes often target those furthest from the job market who are in disrupted lives and complex needs. The expectations placed on them to gain jobs quickly are too onerous rather than focussing on sorting out what it would take for them to be “work or training ready”. Endeavour, UK Youth Member
Even a brief period spent out of work at a young age can significantly reduce a young person’s chances of progression in life. Through the UK Youth network we’re in a unique position to understand the reality of how far some young people are from gaining employment.
Our members have reported that the barriers facing young people today include:
- the inequality of opportunity for young people from different backgrounds;
- the ‘chaos of home’ caused by challenging life circumstances including mental health, caring responsibilities and homelessness
- the lack of confidence and trust of young people that has been ‘battered by an education system that focuses on results’, and
- the structural barriers that include lack of transport or the access to the internet in rural locations
These personal barriers faced by some young people make engaging with opportunities like an employment programme even more difficult. We know that the right support at the right point in life can enable a young person to develop the skills they need to overcome these barriers and reach their potential.
Supporting journeys to employment
‘Young people from complex backgrounds need consistent wrap around support to help them navigate towards a longer-term goal. When you have other challenges in your life that can get in the way of your progress, having a trusted one-to-one figure you can turn to for advice is key.’ ThinkForward, UK Youth Member
We agree with the Big Lottery Fund (BLF) that young people should be at the heart of any programme that looks to tackle the problems they face in being supported into employment. Our member, Youth Employment UK, identified the importance of co-creation with young people and allowing them to lead where possible as the ‘key to any programme that has a great impact on young participants’.
Members also emphasised a good programme should:
– build confidence of young people;
– consider quality, depth and long-term intervention over numbers to bring about better transformational change and valued impact;
– ensure well-resourced trusted key worker support from an individual who ‘understands a young person’s needs, strengths and aspirations’
– be flexible to help reach what is not a homogenous group
From smaller youth clubs to larger infrastructure organisations, we believe that our network of members are best paced to deliver a good employment programme. Together, we support an estimated four million young people across the UK. Our members know and understand the needs of young people in their community who are harder to reach and can benefit from opportunities the most. They are committed to and experienced in providing the right support that brings about transformational change on a local level.
‘UK Youth utilises a network of skilled, experienced and knowledgeable local youth organisations to meet the needs of young people. Through its diverse membership, it connects the front line of delivery with much needed funding and amplifies our voices on a national scale.’ UK Youth Member
We’re fully supportive of the government’s commitment to support disadvantaged young people into employment. This summer we expect ministers to issue a policy direction to BLF about what the programme should focus on. We’re strongly encouraging delivery organisations and charities to complete this online survey and young people aged 16-24 to complete this online survey to feed into BLF’s wider consultation.
Our role is to support and collaborate with our members to ensure there are appropriate high quality services for young people in every community. We’ve heard from our members that they are keen to explore what a UK Youth model could look like. We will continue to champion the experienced voices of our members and young people with BLF and the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports to ensure the funding reaches the young people who need it the most.
Along with our members we’re excited to see what programme comes from this collaborative process and are committed to make the most of this opportunity to help build bright futures for young people.