Report warns of “a demoralising downward spiral” for young people in the east of England

Wednesday, January 2, 2013
12.00 PM

Much work is needed to help young people in the east of England avoid entering “a demoralising downward spiral” according to youth charity The Prince’s Trust.

Revealing the results of its fifth annual Youth Index, the organisation warns of an overall decline in the wellbeing of 16 to 25-year-olds across the country.

More than one in eight young people in Norfolk and the East of England as a whole now believe they have no future due to the continuing economic crisis, with one in five in the East and one in eight in Norfolk – or 14pc – believing their prospects have been “permanently damaged” by the recession. As in 2012, nearly a quarter of respondents reported feeling down or depressed “always” or “often”.

In all aspects, those young people classed as Neet – not in education, employment or training – were even less content.

Marina Milburn, chief executive of The Prince’s Trust, said: “Our findings reinforce the fact that there is still much to do to support the most disadvantaged young people who face significant barriers to finding a job. The Prince’s Trust knows that it is often the young people who have faced considerable challenges while growing up who end up furthest from the workplace.

“Life can become a demoralising downward spiral – from a chaotic childhood into life as a jobless adult.”

Elli Chapman, director of the Norwich-based youth organisation Culture Works East, said it was not surprising that young people were feeling less positive.

“It has been a tough year,” she said. “For those who are furthest away from the job market, they are facing an even tougher challenge than in previous years to find sustainable employment.

“Trying to do the transition from a challenging childhood to work-ready adult is difficult enough without combining it with increased knock-backs and lack of jobs.”

Culture Works has seen a rise in the number of Neet (Not in education or employment) young people accessing its services.

The organisation has focused on offering programmes that develop high-quality skills and somewhere to get advice and support.

But Miss Chapman agreed that, with hard work, young people could have a positive experience despite the tough times. “Culture Works have seen many young people who have been involved in our programmes be very successful, progressing on to further education, training and employment including apprenticeships. With hard work and the right intensive support, the most marginalised young people can be successful. We all have a part we can play in this.”

Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children’s services Alison Thomas added: “There is no doubt that it continues to be an uncertain time for some young people.

“It is only by working with families, schools and our partners to identify and solve the difficult issues that some young people face that we can break the cycle and make a long and lasting difference by raising aspirations, levels of achievement and presenting them with opportunities to access employment – such as via our apprenticeships programme.”

The Prince’s Trust’s Youth Index is based on the findings of a survey conducted by YouGov with more than 2,000 young people across the country.

In 2012, the overall Youth Index figure – where young people score their happiness and confidence in a range of areas out of 100 – fell from 73 to 71.

The government’s most recent statistics estimated there were now 88,000 16 to 24-year-olds classified as Neet in the east of England.

Education minister and South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said she hoped changes due to come in this year would give young people’s prospects a boost.

She said: “These figures for Norfolk clearly show the vital importance of a strong education foundation to give young people confidence and choices about the future.

“We are raising the participation age so that all young people continue in education or training until age 17 from this year, and until their 18th birthday from 2015.”

The minister said changes to the exams system would also help to “bridge the attainment gap and ensure that no young person slips through the net”.

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith added: “Youth unemployment in particular is a problem for our generation and our debt-ridden economic times; it’s for exactly the people in this survey that the British economy has to be fixed.

“In Norwich I believe we can work together to support young people better. Businesses, society and all of us can pull together to get young Norwich working despite tough times. We can give young people better opportunities including vital chances at jobs.”