Our 26 Young Leaders have completed their research into children and young people's experience of the welfare state and how they would improve it. The pandemic and moving to online meetings didn't stop them, but in the words of some Young Leaders only made the project more important. They met online several times to digest and interpret the findings of their research into health, housing, education and more. 

We have also held two brilliant 'summit' meetings with the Young Leaders and our Sounding Board of supportive adults, to discuss the Young Leaders' research, and develop principles and proposals for how a new ChildFair state could work. There is more work to do in designing a complete vision for the ChildFair State, and many of our Young Leaders are staying involved to help us do that, and to develop a campaign to share it with everyone who has a stake in our society's support systems. As their new principles suggest, the welfare state should be a collective effort, with everyone entitled to participate, to benefit and to feel agency in their lives and communities. 

At this stage we can share with you the key findings and emerging vision of the Young Leaders:

  • Open a PDF of the key findings

  • Play the video below to watch a 20-minute film of our Young Leaders presenting the findings and emerging vision to our board of trustees



 

Findings: healthcare

I had to seek out a private counsellor, because I couldn’t get one on the NHS. Luckily, my family was able to support me with that and afford it, but I know people from much  poorer backgrounds and they’re really struggling to get any support through CAMHS. 

The biggest issue is that services aren’t communicating with each other, they don’t listen to other specialists.

It feels like luck of the draw as to whether you get good support or not. Some of it might be down to which area you live in, but a lot of it comes down to how able a young person is to voice their concerns.

These are some of the comments made by young people when talking about healthcare. The need for more accessible mental health support, with treatments tailored to each young person, was very evident, as was the feeling of young people that they often weren't listened to or involved in decisions about their treatment, so much as processed quickly and passed from one service to another, having to repeat themselves each time. Other issues they raised included:

  • The transition between youth and adult services is very difficult
  • There is not enough support available early on to prevent issues escalating
  • Widespread concern that the NHS is under-resourced and staff are pressurised, meaning that many young people feel they're a burden on the service

 

Findings: Neighbourhoods

My neighbourhood isn’t bad. I just don’t feel part of it when it comes to changes around it being made.

I’ve been here 6/7 years, I don’t really feel part of the community, I attend the local church which is nice but beyond that relationship, there’s not much there.

I wouldn’t use the word ‘belonging’. The reason I say this is because it just feels like one long road, it’s not based around religious places or community centre, there doesn’t  feel like a community. Mine’s just a house on a high road.

Not everyone feels at home when they’re at home, so youth centres are essential to  provide a space where young people can connect with other people.

It’s not working for people from poorer communities, it’s rich people running  everything and they don’t necessarily understand things.

These are some of the comments made by young people when asked about their neighbourhoods. Whilst they valued community cohesion and a sense of local belonging very highly, many felt that it was lacking where they lived. They also felt excluded from decision-making in their communities, even whilst they mostly felt part of the social life of the area. Other issues they raised included:

  • Feeling unsafe when they went out
  • Widespread lack of accessible design in streets, transport and venues meaning disabled young people can't enjoy their neighbourhoods independently and safely
  • Communities only coming together in times of crisis and adversity, with little hope the co-operation will last 

 

Findings: Education

My school didn’t provide me with what I needed, they focussed on only the high achievers.

Teachers are always telling you “You know you can talk to us” but then they don’t  actually help you, they don’t actually do anything. If a student does something bad, teachers don’t try to understand the reasons behind this, they don’t necessarily know the back story. Sometimes people cry inside, but they don’t wanna act weak in front of other people.

Kids grow up thinking certain things are normal depending on what they’ve seen growing up. Then you put them in school and teach them all the same thing and expect them all to respond in the same way. It’s a huge task, you’re trying to provide that  service to children who have gone through many different things.

These are some of the comments made by young people when thinking about their experience of school. The over-riding view was that school was effective at focussing on academic subjects, and on the pupils who were expected to do well in these areas, but that they are failing to support young people's development in other ways, including in practical skills and emotional development. Young people feel expected to conform to a very narrow stereotype when they get to school, when what they want is to be supported to be themselves, and develop confidence in their own unique abilities and interests. They also raised issues such as:

  • Young people from families on lower incomes were struggling to afford the transport and equipment they needed for school, and that all resources and trips should be available for free
  • Even where support with emotional and mental health is available at school, it isn't always clearly offered or of good enough quality
  • The focus on academic subjects is not giving them the skills and knowledge they need for jobs in the real world

 

Findings: Social Security

I would have to complain about the problems and intricacies around accessing help. You can get the help you need, but then if you get work or a job, then the benefits won’t  help you and you can be worse off. You get taxed back into poverty.

Give 18-25yrs old the same Universal benefit pay as the over 25yr olds because our housing, food and wages are exactly the same. I think they assume that because we’re young, we have families who will help us, but if you’re on Universal Credit, then you obviously need it and don’t have help from elsewhere.

The idea of someone being on benefits has been warped by the media, it doesn’t reflect well on the people who genuinely need the benefits. It makes people out to be scroungers and that’s just not true.

These are some of the comments made by young people talking about the social security system and wages. There was a pervasive sense that the current system is unfair and almost impossible to understand (and therefore challenge). Young people felt that the benefit system was stigmatising to people in need of it, but shouldn't be: the purpose of the social security system should be to support anyone who needs it to reach an equal and decent standard of living. They also said:

  • The system doesn't support young people's sense of purpose - it traps them in low-skilled, low-paid work and doesn't encourage them to aim higher
  • Features of the benefit system - waits, delays, lack of empathy and help - make it feel punitive, not supportive
  • Accessing benefits is particularly difficult for people with English as a second language
  • Young people should be paid as much as older workers for the same work

 

Findings: Housing

I’ve come to realise that I won’t own a house in my lifetime, but even rent is crazy. As  a young person, having that instability of not knowing whether you’ll be able to pay rent  each month, that affects your mental health.

If housing worked for wheelchair users there would be open plan houses with  automatic doors, Alexa to help turn control the lights and TV, close the curtains. It  wasn’t until we got referred to ‘environmental services’ that we found out that this was  even an option. I think families should be given more help and made aware of services  available.

Some houses are not comfortable and people are shy to bring their friends because the house is not comfortable.

These are some of the comments made by young people reflecting on housing and home. They felt that having a secure home was extremely important, and that uncertainty about affording the rent or keeping the tenancy could cause significant anxiety. They also said:

  • Young people don't know where to turn to find out about their housing rights, and how to deal with landlords, which means they can feel powerless and ill-informed when they need to manage housing situations
  • Many reported poor quality housing, for themselves or relatives, that was very difficult to rectify, and could make them feel unable to invite friends home
  • Housing should be tailored to individual needs, not only in the building itself but in the surrounding spaces and the people who live there, so that young people feel that they're part of a safe, welcoming community