YMCA launch national manifesto campaign to put issues affecting young people at heart of next election
As the UK prepares for the next General Election, our national body, YMCA England and Wales, has launched a manifesto to urge political parties to seize the opportunity to create positive change for young people. As an organisation on the frontline of delivering youth services, we are only too aware of the increasing challenges faced by young people. We’re supporting the “Now’s Our Chance,” manifesto which emphasises the need for targeted policies aimed at addressing the issues they face.
What is in the YMCA Manifesto?
The ongoing adverse impact of the pandemic, coupled with the cost-of-living crisis, housing shortage and historic underfunding, has left lasting scars on communities across the UK. YMCA England and Wales has worked alongside young people to provide the next government with key recommendations including addressing homelessness, providing preventative youth services, tackling cost of living crisis and improving access to mental health support.
The vision of the YMCA Manifesto
“Our vision of the future for young people and communities is one where everyone has stability, security, and access to the resources they need to thrive,” says Denise Hatton, Chief Executive, YMCA England & Wales. “We want everyone across the country to be able to flourish, not just survive, and to be treated with fairness, equity, and dignity.”
What is the issue with the housing crisis
The housing crisis, marked by a severe shortage of affordable homes and rising private rents, impacts young people disproportionately due to lower wages and benefit caps. It is one of the biggest single issues facing young people. This is particularly acute in our region (Sussex and Surrey) where housing costs soar above the national average. The manifesto calls for urgent action to create policies that address the housing shortage and alleviate hardship and youth homelessness.
#PlanForThe136 and our commitment to this campaign
To strengthen the call for government action on youth homelessness, we are also backing the #PlanForThe136k campaign. Led by New Horizon Youth Centre, the #PlanForThe136k campaign is a collective of over 120 charities (including YMCA England and Wales and many local YMCAs) fighting to end youth homelessness.
As we’ve previously reported, 136,000 young people approached their council as homeless last year. However, we know the true scale is a lot higher (read more here). In the last six months, our Brighton Youth Advice Centre, which is currently the front door for any young person in housing crisis, has seen an increase of 32% in presentations. This isn’t an issue that can be solved at a local level. As a collective we believe that there needs to be a government plan in place to respond to this escalating crisis.
Your support is needed to help these young people facing homelessness
As a simple way to support the campaign and drive this issue onto the government’s agenda, you can sign this petition. Achieving ten thousand signatures will trigger a debate in parliament and bring the issue of youth homelessness to wider attention.
Cuts to Youth Services and the impact for young people
Speaking about the complex issues impacting young people, our CEO, Emily Brock said:
“Over the past ten years services supporting young people have been decimated. This, coupled with the rise in housing costs, low wages and job insecurity, is negatively impacting this current generation and will have consequences for children growing up now.
As the CEO of a local YMCA I back the national manifesto and, in particular, I believe that tackling youth homelessness must be a priority, for this, or any subsequent government. It’s an issue that can only be effectively addressed at a national level. I hope that the YMCA manifesto will put the increasingly complex issues young people face, at the heart of public debate during this election year.”
Another crucial element of the manifesto addresses the cuts to youth services. Over the past decade there’s been a staggering 73% decline in funding (£1.1bn) which has led to the closure of many youth centres, advice services and specialist support services The manifesto calls for a comprehensive strategy that addresses these cuts and promotes and sustains youth work. Our region has suffered from these cuts and we’re also part of the wider campaign, led by Young Minds, Fund the Hubs, which is calling for a national approach to securing walk-in, one-stop-shop mental health hubs for young people. Our experience and impact data shows that early prevention work is the key to achieving better long-term outcomes for young people and prevents crisis (see our previous article on value of youth work).
The impact of the cost of living
The cost-of-living crisis has also compounded the challenges faced by young people, who struggle with essentials due to lower wages and benefits. The manifesto calls for a benefits system that safeguards essential needs and is calling for these specific changes to current government policy:
- The Government should introduce an Essentials Guarantee for benefits, an independently calculated figure which would determine the minimum level of benefits to meet people’s essential needs.
- Young people under 25 who are living independently should receive an additional Universal Credit payment, to bring their standard allowance up to match the over 25s rate.
- Residents of supported accommodation should receive a Universal Credit work allowance to allow them to earn more before their income from benefits is tapered.
The final point in this policy is particularly relevant to the 650 young people who are given a home in our supported accommodation each year. Part of our holistic approach is to ensure that they get the wraparound care and support they need to be able to ‘move on’ into independence. This means helping them back into education, training or work. However, the current benefits situation penalises those who are ready to work by reducing their allowance. Then, even if they are ready to move on, it is very difficult to find affordable accommodation in the private rental sector. We want to see government policies consider the different kind of support young people, without family to fall back on, need to thrive and live independently.
The mental health crisis among young people
The mental health crisis among young people has intensified during the pandemic, exacerbated by long NHS waiting lists. The YMCA manifesto stresses the need for accessible mental health services and a preventive approach, urging leaders to prioritise and enhance mental health support. Again, this is an issue that impacts the young people in our region every day. We are the largest provider of counselling and wellbeing services in Sussex and Surrey, and despite attempts to increase capacity, lack of funding and complex commissioning structures, mean that waiting lists continue to grow and our services are stretched. We want to see access to mental health for all children and young people made a priority in the next government.
If you want to get more involved and help us put pressure on all political parties to put issues affecting young people into the heart of the debate ahead of the election please……