A UK Youth perspective
Dubbed by the Chancellor, Rt Hon Phillip Hammond as ‘a budget for Britain’s future’, Monday saw the last budget before Brexit setting out the Government’s economic plan for the country. Despite the usual demeanours of the Commons, Mr Hammond was clear in his position that the ‘era of austerity is finally coming to an end’.
This is clearly a challenging time to be setting budgets. There remains a great deal of uncertainty around whether a withdrawal deal with the EU can be reached, let alone what a future relationship might look like. Most economists predict that Brexit, whatever its shape, will have a negative impact on the economy, at least over the short term.
What are the key points?
Responding to the call of the British public that the National Health Service (NHS) is their number one priority, back in June the Prime Minister announced £20.5 billion per year for the next 5 years. This increased funding will support a new 10 year long-term plan on NHS reform. Hammond was keen to detail some of the plans in his speech.
The mental health crisis has been widely reported as one of the biggest and most prolific problems for our young people. NHS figures revealed in July that almost 400,000 children and young people aged 18 and under are in contact with the health service for mental health problems. Two-thirds of children referred for specialist mental healthcare are not receiving treatment. Demand for help is up, but services have been diminishing. Hammond responded to this demand today by announcing a £2 billion funding boost for a new mental health crisis service with comprehensive mental health support available in every A&E. Supporting this will be children’s mental health support services in every local community and a new 24 hour mental health hotline, aiming to end the stigma that for long enough has caused so many young people to suffer in silence.
From our own research announced earlier this year; ‘A Place to Belong’, funded by the Co-op Foundation we know that mental health issues can have rippling effects. When asked to identify the major causes of youth loneliness in the online survey, the top answers provided by youth workers were feeling different or not fitting in (86%), bullying (83%) and problems with mental health (79%).
UK Youth CEO Anna Smee said,
“From our research, we know that ill mental health has severe consequences for our young people’s futures and we welcome the new support for mental health services announced by the Chancellor today and look forward to the future announcements regarding the NHS 10 year long-term plan. We welcome the £7 million matched funding in Greater Manchester alongside employers to provide on-the-job training to young people not currently in employment, education or training in Greater Manchester, but disappointed the Chancellor did not address key concerns of the whole sector, plugging the gap where youth services have been so stringently diminished.”
In the Chancellor’s other plans was a £400 million one-off capital payment directly for schools to buy ‘the little extras’, worth on average £10,000 for primary schools and £50,000 for secondary schools. Funding these little extras when schools have had to cut back so much in their services for our young people is very short sighted. The amount of per pupil spending in England’s schools has fallen by 8% since 2010. These cash shortages and rising pupil numbers are meaning that schools are struggling to provide a full and well-rounded education; the little extras simply won’t cut it.
What does the Autumn Budget 2018 mean for young people and the sector?
With wages rising at the fastest pace in nearly a decade and unemployment rates hovering at the lowest for more than 40 years, these should be positive times for young people. But rising rents and living expenses means it doesn’t feel so positive for many of them. The chances of owning a home seem very slim, high transport and living costs and increasing tuition fees are leaving young people short-changed. Mr Hammond failed to address this widening gap today. An increase in the levels for the national living wage in April from £7.83 to £8.21 will be welcomed by young people over 25, and the halving of the apprenticeship levy will be welcomed by employers, but young apprentices whatever their age deserve a fair, living wage.
The red book confirms that those under-25 will still be subject only to national minimum wage legislation and not a real living wage that we know our young people so desperately need. The UK Youth Voice Manifesto developed by our national steering committee of young people last year calls for ‘an equal pay for an equal day’: equality of pay for all regardless of age, to allow every young person an equal chance in their working life. The social mobility of young people from the most disadvantaged areas is yet to improve and stats from our State of the Membership Report show that there has been a 41% reduction in universal spending on young people in England between 2014/15 and 2017/18.
Finally, the continued cuts to business rates without any funding to local authorities to fill those gaps will likely only mean more youth service cuts. Local authorities up and down the country are surviving on business rates and due to their long-term impact, non-statutory status, youth services are often the first services to be cut. Spending on youth services has fallen by 62% since 2010 and this is yet another blow for the sector.
We need to ensure youth services are properly resourced, so that our members and the wider youth sector have the funding that it needs to ensure that all young people are able to build bright futures. We also need to get certainty of the implications of Brexit on organisations that support young people and urge the Chancellor to address these issues to safeguard our young people now, for their futures.