Prince’s Trust Youth Index shows tough times taking their toll on region’s young people

Tough times for young people risk creating a deluge of 'lost' young adults, according to The Prince's Trust which today releases its latest Youth Index gauging the feelings and attitudes of 16 to 25-year-olds.

Based on a YouGov survey, the Youth Index found almost one in four young people – 24pc – in the East of England 'always' or 'often' feel down or depressed while nearly half – 47pc – said they felt stressed all or most of the time.

About one in nine – more than 10pc – said they felt their days 'lacked structure and direction' while growing up.

The Trust said the Youth Index suggested many of those feelings were linked to how they performed at school, with 23pc of young people saying they did not receive the support they needed at school and 29pc feeling they did not belong at school. Pupils with poorer grades were more likely to feel that way.

Graham Ball, director of The Prince's Trust in the East of England, warned of a potentially devastating effect.

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He said: 'Without the right support, directionless teenagers can become lost young adults – un-confident, under-qualified and unemployed.'

For organisations in Norfolk working with some of the most disadvantaged young people, the findings come as no surprise.

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Official government figures show the number of 18 to 24-year-olds not in education, employment or training passed one million for the first time during the third-quarter of 2011.

Dawn Jackson, director of Future Education, a Norwich school providing education for excluded teenagers, said it was an incredibly tough time for young people and that was having a major impact on their attitudes.

She said: 'The opportunities for young people are completely diminishing. As things get tighter, there will be those youngsters who just fall by the wayside.

'I've never seen such a tough group of youngsters as the ones we're working with – and I've been doing my job for 12 years. Everything's so bleak at the moment.'

The Prince's Trust index shows the effects of those tough times seeping into every aspect of young people's lives – at home, school and work.

Mr Ball said a lot of it could be linked to the difficult economic climate. He said: 'It's even harder for those young people without the grades to get on that first step of the ladder. There are so many young people who have done well at school and are struggling to get jobs that it pushes back those young people who haven't got the grades. It leaves them with no hope for the future.'

Redundancy and money fears for parents would also impact on their children, Mr Ball said, ridding them of much-needed structure at home.

For youngsters at Respect 4 Us, an alternative education provider in the north of Norwich, that lack of structure is a familiar story – either because the family or school has failed to provide it or because they have chosen to break free.

Liz Easton, operations manager, said: 'They are definitely better when you say 'this is what you are going to do, and we're sticking to it'.'

But there is one small ray of light in The Prince's Trust report.

The overall youth index figure for 2011 – a number out of 100 which reflects young people's feelings about their lives and the future – was 73, up from 71 in 2010.

Alison Thomas, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services, said there was 'no doubt' this was a difficult and uncertain time for young people because of greater competition for university places and fewer jobs and training opportunities.

But she said the slight rise in the index was 'encouraging... suggesting young people have more optimism for the future'.

Sharon Matthews, director of operations for The Benjamin Foundation, said she had seen signs of hope when working with the county's vulnerable young people.

She said: 'Without a doubt it is a tough time for children and young people at present as the Prince's Trust report shows. However, when working directly with young people their spirit, enthusiasm and zest for life shine through and this makes us optimistic.

'The Benjamin Foundation, along with many other voluntary sector agencies, strives to make the most of scarce resources, to continue to provide and develop services to meet the evolving needs of Norfolk's young.'

Mrs Thomas added: 'In Norfolk we have an increasing number of apprenticeships and strong school sixth-forms and colleges that are well equipped to give young people the encouragement and skills they need.

'It is a difficult time but we and our partners will continue to do our best for Norfolk's children and young people, despite the tough economic climate.'

The full findings of The Prince's Trust youth index will be presented to the government later this year.

Mr Ball said he hoped it would act as a catalyst to ensure more young people – like those already supported by the charity – were given the help they needed.

Yesterday, the government announced a �200m package aimed at helping the country's most troubled families. The payment-by-results scheme will target families with at least one member on benefits and aims to help them get the skills to find work and stay in it.

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