5 May 2023
We all know that the cost of living crisis is having a huge impact on individuals, youth organisations and young people across the UK. Young people have been disproportionally affected by both the rise in the cost of energy, and inflation reaching over 10% since January 2023. As the detrimental effects of the cost of living crisis continue, there is a huge concern for youth centres and the youth sector regarding funding and operation.
At UK Youth, we are working to help mitigate some of these impacts, but we cannot solve all of the current challenges alone. This blog aims to shed light on the current policy set out on this issue, and look towards some next steps for the sector.
Because of the cost of living crisis, young people all over the UK have shared about experiencing anxiety over their futures. More than half of young people (54%) surveyed by UK Youth say their mental health has been negatively impacted by the cost of living crisis*. Likewise, a shocking three quarters of young people (76%) are concerned the crisis will restrict their ability to get a secure job now and in the future*.
Research from The Co-op found that children as young as 10 are concerned and acutely aware of the rising cost of living with almost half (47%) of 10 – 25-year-olds seeing financial pressures as one of the top five challenges they’ll face in the next 12 months. Alongside this, Youth unemployment has also risen, with about 458,000 young people being unemployed in the November 2022 to January 2023 time period. This figure is up 27,000 from the last quarter, with too many young people unable to find suitable and secure work. Alongside this, one in five (20%) young people say their access to regular meals has been negatively impacted*.
As part of our work around the cost of living crisis, the Back Youth Alliance, of which UK Youth is a member, has been highlighting this issue in Parliament. We believe that many youth workers are moving out of the sector in favour of higher paying jobs. We have also seen that volunteers have lower capacity, because they need to work more since the crisis begun to meet increased demand, and so the youth sector as a whole has had a large decrease in available workforce. Many people working in the youth sector have also cited burnout and secondary traumatisation as major factors in them leaving.
We know this issue does not impact everyone in equal measure, and that some people feel increased pressures from the cost of living crisis. Research has shown that children whose head of household is from an global majority background are more likely to majorly affected by the cost of living crisis. We need to ensure that support for the cost of living reaches those who are struggling, and could benefit most from the support of youth work. Nearly three quarters of parents (73%) believe better or increased access to youth work would help their child aspects of their life affected by the cost of living crisis* – while half of young people (48%) believe it would benefit their mental health and three in 10 (30%) young people believe it would improve their employment opportunities*.
Youth organisations have also experienced a higher demand for their services, and are having trouble fulfilling those demands because of the cost of living crisis. As more young people come to these youth organisations looking for services, a place to stay warm and a hot meal, more volunteers and youth workers will be needed to respond to the increase in demand and more funding is required to sustain this high level of support. A separate UK Youth survey found two thirds of youth organisations (63%) are seeing increased demand for services from young people, with a similar figure (67%) facing increased operating costs, at the same time as more than half are seeing a decrease in funding (51%) and a drop in staff wellbeing (53%)**.
NCVO carried out some work into volunteering trends over the last few years, this has shown a decrease of 36% in volunteers that volunteer at charities and other organisations in the youth sector since March 2020. While this figure, in part, reflects the pandemic, it also reflects that the cost of living crisis has created a barrier for people wanting to become volunteers who do not have the time, or ability to spend on costs such as travel, where it is not reimbursed.
As you will know, funding for charities and the youth sector have also been impacted by the cost of living crisis. Since many long-term funding commitments do not take inflation into account, many charities are trying to provide the same services for relatively lower amounts of funding. Donations and funding are forecasted to fall across the charity sector, and even when the donations and funding remain, the buying power of that money is declining due to the rise in inflation. This spending power currently still presents a major problem to charities and organisations in the youth sector.
At UK Youth we are working hard to support youth organisations where we can to take the brunt of the impact of the cost of living crisis, we launched our UK Youth Fund in partnership with Pears Foundation to provide unrestricted grants to help mitigate these issues, but we know this funding will not be enough to support every young person, and the need for youth work is continuing to grow.
We need to see further action from the Government to support young people. Six in 10 parents (59%) believe the government is not doing enough, while half of young people (50%) feel the same*. There needs to be a cross-sector approach to tackling the cost of living crisis to ensure those disproportionally affected by the crisis can get the aid they need, we work best when we tackle problems collectively, and we would like to see the Government take a more collaborative approach to supporting the charity sector. We feel there also needs to be a focus on young people from the Government when looking at mitigations for the cost of living crisis, to ensure that they receive the help of the youth sector during a time when they are particularly impacted in society.
We are working through our policy and influencing approach to make sure the urgency of this matter is highlighted to decision makers, and we will continue to advocate strongly for the youth sector and for young people to get the support that is desperately needed.
By taking these steps, and making speaking to Government in a collective about the issues the sector faces, we can come one step closer to helping young people through the cost of living crisis.
* Polling of 1,012 young people, aged 16-25 years old, as well as polling of 1,011 parents of young people, aged 11-25 years old, was conducted by Censuswide on 16th-17th March 2023. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society and follows the MRS code of conduct which is based on the ESOMAR principles.
** A survey of 331 youth organisations was conducted by UK Youth in March 2023. Detailed results available upon request.