Removing barriers: More work needed to highlight power of young people

28 March 2024

  • Blog

The evidence of the positive benefits of youth social action on the society and on young people has grown through different pieces of research across the world.

However, our research suggests more work still needs to be done in the UK to persuade the general public and policy-makers the power of young people and the value they bring to their communities through their social action, writes the UK Youth impact team.

More than 1,000 people took part in our second public perceptions survey in September – following a similar one in June 2023.

More work still needs to be done in the UK to persuade the general public and policy-makers the power of young people and the value they bring to their communities through their social action.

Our findings showed negative perceptions towards young people have remained unchanged in the last year, but there is pessimism and less willingness to share power with them.

There were slightly higher proportions of people describing young people as ‘entitled’, ‘rude’, and ‘selfish’, and fewer people trust young people, down three percentage points, or believe they work hard, minus seven percentage points.

People are also less likely to feel young people want to and are making the world a better place, down eight percentage points.

There is also less trust in young people to make decisions that affect others, minus five percentage points.

Negative perceptions

What was more concerning in our findings was negative perceptions have slightly increased, including among people aware of youth social action.

Although they are more likely to trust young people, this year they felt less comfortable about seeing young people in leadership roles than those aware in 2022.

Drops were noticed in trusting young people in making decisions that would impact them, down six percentage points, and in reducing the voting age to 16, minus 14 percentage points.

This outcome is connected to the lower visibility, 11 percentage points, of young people helping in making their own communities a better place.

Significant to the need to more loudly voice the contribution of young people, is the impact it has on them.

This year we noticed a small decrease, down four percentage points, in the social engagement of young people aged 16-25.

It can be suggested this reduction is associated to the cost-of-living crisis, the low recognition they receive from their communities and policy-makers as well as from the lower participation of adults.

Setting an example

Our survey showed that this year there were less over-25s taking part in volunteering and, as research suggests – such as Thomas Perks and Daniel Konecny’s 2015 study, The Enduring Influence of Parents’ Voluntary Involvement no Their Children’s Volunteering in Later Life – setting the right example is crucial in creating legacies.  

While the current global crisis forms a barrier for young people to be active, the #iwill Movement recruited 63 new ambassadors in July. And recruitment is now open for the 2024 ambassadors. For further information see iwill.org.uk/join-iwill/ambassador – the deadline for applications is Sunday, April 14.

We will continue to showcase their work, raising awareness of their value and of the importance of including youth voice in decision making.

Power of Youth

To join us in our mission, you can sign the Power of Youth Charter. The charter is a collaborative effort, across the UK, which aims to recognise young people for their efforts, empower more young people to make a difference, and give young people opportunities to shape their future.

Newly published research has highlighted the benefits of signing up to the charter, including being part of a national movement and brand, and signatories publicly demonstrating their commitment to young people and ‘meaningful youth engagement’.

Mapping organisational journeys – The Power of Youth Charter, by research charity IVAR UK, working with UK Youth and Volunteering Matters, also highlighted how it “adds value through: creating opportunities to celebrate: leveraging new funding opportunities; connection and inspiration; and acting as a flexible tool for reflection”.

For more news, follow #iwill on social media: InstagramFacebookXYouTubeLinkedIn.

About UK Youth

UK Youth is a leading charity with a vision that all young people are equipped to thrive and empowered to contribute at every stage of their lives. With an open network of more than 8,000 youth organisations and nation partners; UK Youth reaches more than four million young people across the UK and is focused on unlocking youth work as the catalyst of change that is needed now more than ever. To find out more, visit ukyouth.org 

UK Youth is involved in a range of programmes designed to help young people thrive, such as outdoor learning, physical literacy, social action and employability, including Hatch, a youth employability programme run in partnership with KFC. For more on UK Youth’s programmes, see ukyouth.org/what-we-do/programmes

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