GE2024: The story so far

7 June 2024

  • Blog

It has been just more than two weeks since the Prime Minister announced the 2024 General Election. All political parties have begun sharing their policy commitments, including some of their ideas to improve employability and mental health support for young people.

We have put this blog together to summarise what has been committed to so far, explain UK Youth’s thoughts about the announcements and remind you how to help advocate for the power of youth work, writes Kate Roberts, UK Youth policy manager.

Voters will go to the polls to elect the UK’s next government on Thursday, July 4.

Skills and opportunities

We know employability and skills development is a key issue for young people. If the next government is to break down the barriers to opportunity, it must recognise the life chances of young people are shaped by more than just the classroom experience. With an estimated 320,000 young people aged 16-24 not in employment, education or training in the early part of 2024, there is a real need for new ideas to support young people to achieve their potential and be empowered to thrive.

We have seen commitments so far from the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, and the Liberal Democrats around skills, opportunity and employability.

The Conservatives have committed to fund 100,000 new apprenticeships, with the funding being delivered from cuts to higher education degree courses.

The Apprenticeship Levy, introduced in 2017, is a UK tax on employers which is used to fund apprenticeship training.

Labour has pledged to increase the employment rate from 75 per cent to 80 per cent by embedding a National Careers Service into Job Centres and improving access to apprenticeships and training for young people aged 18-21. Labour has also committed to broaden the existing Apprenticeship Levy into a Growth and Skills Levy, to allow employers to use some of the levy funding for other training routes, beyond apprenticeships.

The Liberal Democrats have shared their aim to provide every adult with a ‘pot of money’ over their working life to spend on education and retraining.

It is good to see these commitments to this vital area of skills development for young people, but there is more that can be done. It is important youth work plays a central role in supporting young people with their skills development and access to opportunities.

UK Youth has found youth work can be an effective way to support young people to build essential skills for work and improve their employment outcomes. Our Untapped Report found youth work provides an indirect economic value of £0.8 billion to the economy in England from increased education and employment.

Effective and coordinated youth work can provide a measurable and meaningful boost to the employment prospects of young people and thereby enhance the economic potential of the country. Without action, we are storing up problems for young people and the national economy.

Mental health

We know one in five children and young people have a probable mental disorder, and 75 per cent of children and young people who experience a mental health problem are not getting the help they need. We also know effective and coordinated youth work can provide both a preventative non-clinical intervention and a supportive service for young people already experiencing difficulties.

The Labour Party has committed to employing mental health support staff in every school, as well as launching the young futures hubs programme to tackle knife crime and the mental health crisis. The hubs will bring together mental health specialists, youth workers and neighbourhood police officers to prevent young people from being drawn into violence.

The Liberal Democrat party have pledged to support children and young people’s mental health in schools through taxing online social media giants. We have responded to these announcements about offering all children at school access to a mental health practitioner or counsellor.

It is vital young people get the early help they need to thrive, particularly support around mental health.

Jacob Diggle, UK Youth chief impact officer

Jacob Diggle, UK Youth chief impact officer, said: “It is vital young people get the early help they need to thrive, particularly support around mental health. Working together across sectors and services, including youth workers and therapists, is key to supporting young people in these difficult times.

“Youth work is life-changing, and even lifesaving. Youth workers are an essential resource to help solve the problems facing young people: improving their mental health and wellbeing; enhancing skills and employment prospects; and reducing crime and anti-social behaviour.”

Our Untapped report found youth work saves the taxpayer £1.7bn from improved mental health outcomes for young people. This is achieved through a reduction in mental health treatment costs, saving the Government about £1.17bn, and a reduction in rates of substance misuse among young people, saving the Government about £0.65bn.

If the next Government is going to get the NHS back on its feet, it must recognise the health of a population is not measured solely by how it treats those who are physically sick, but by how it prevents people from becoming sick in the first place. We know non-clinical early intervention works and that the habits young people form last a lifetime. Getting this right not only improves wellbeing but saves the taxpayer money.

Youth offer and youth voice

It is important all young people are equipped to thrive and empowered to contribute at every stage of their lives. Youth workers are an essential resource to help solve the problems facing young people. Our evidence also shows young people who receive youth work become happier, healthier and wealthier adults, compared with those who did not receive support. We also previously shared a blog that summarised what the youth sector wants to see from the next Government.

The Labour Party has pledged to extend the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds in future general elections. This is something the recently closed British Youth Council has campaigned for over the last few years, and is already implemented for local elections in Wales and Scotland.

The Conservative Party committed to introduce mandatory national services for 18 year olds, including 30,000 military places as well as volunteering opportunities, to be funded by abolishing the Shared Prosperity Fund. We have responded to this announcement about national service.

Millions of young people still lack access to the quality youth work support they need.

Ndidi Okezie OBE, UK Youth chief executive officer

Ndidi Okezie OBE, UK Youth chief executive officer said: “We can get caught up in debating the specifics of mandatory participation or the merits of various programmes, but whether it is National Service, or NCS‘s year of service, or gap years, or internships, or apprenticeships, the reality is different things work for different people and that is okay.

“Many countries have successful National Service programmes, but they have built infrastructure around the experience, ensuring it is an integrated stage in a young person’s life. The core issue we face is the lack of sustained investment to supporting youth development.

“As a society, we should ensure all young people have access to quality developmental experiences and professional support to help them navigate each stage of life. This is where youth work plays a crucial role, but millions of young people still lack access to the quality youth work support they need.”

Advocate for youth work

What all of these policy commitments from the different parties have in common is the role of youth work and youth workers, to make them successful and create the biggest positive impact for young people. Therefore, more needs to be done to support youth workers to achieve the outcomes pledged by the various political parties. We are looking forward to reading the manifestos and sharing our reflections in more detail.

Election calls

Ahead of the forthcoming General Election, UK Youth is urging all political parties to: 

We would love for youth organisations and young people to get in touch with their local candidates and advocate for the role of youth work, and for issues impacting young people.

Get in touch if you would like a template email, or any support with this. Do also let us know if you hear back from any of the candidates. You can find our briefing pack for youth organisations here that includes key information, key dates, and resources/activities for young people. You can also access a recording of our webinar briefing session for youth organisations by emailing Kate Roberts at kate.roberts@ukyouth.org

Kate Roberts, UK Youth policy manager.

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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