Our work at YMCA has always focussed on the holistic development of all young people, recognising that positive health and wellbeing are essential for all other aspects of young people’s lives to be fulfilled. In order for this to be realised, there are a number of ways in which society could change to better reflect the needs of young people and the challenges they face.
Part of staying healthy is about the lifestyle choices we make and cost is seen by many as one of the biggest issues to being healthy and active. With the varying degrees of poverty across London it is not surprising to see a similar diversity in the health and fitness levels of Londoners. Taking life expectancy alone; there are wide variations across London. For women, the difference between the highest and lowest life expectancy across London boroughs is 3.8 years, for men the difference between those living in Tower Hamlets and Kensington and Chelsea is 5.1 years.
Poverty is a significant barrier as many young people often rely on their parents or guardians for the money to participate in sports, something which is not possible in all families. The reduction in the number community spaces in which young people can play sport has resulted in the only options available being ones that have a financial cost associated to them. Where possible, the Mayor and GLA should look to develop public spaces across London, including the Royal Parks, to support free activities for young people.
Alcohol has a major impact on the health and wellbeing of young people. Although there has been a recent decline in the amount of time young people drink during the week, they are now more prone to heavy episodic or binge drinking when they do. Accordingly, this has resulted in an upward trend in alcohol related admissions to hospitals in England.
From speaking to young people we know that limiting access to drugs and alcohol is the most effective way to stop usage. Accessing alcohol from shops is still too easy and the Metropolitan Police Service should do more to tackle those shops supplying underage young people with alcohol. Likewise those who attempt to buy alcohol to supply underage young people should also be targeted.
YMCA is committed to creating healthy, sustainable communities across the capital and is the largest voluntary sector provider of health and wellbeing services. While the Mayor and GLA do not have control over NHS budgets they should see the correlation between active communities and healthy ones. In order to ensure the long-term benefits this has on the capital, active communities must be prioritised within the Health Inequality Strategy.
Metal health is a concern for young Londoners and, in particular, accessing the services aimed at supporting them. The Mayor’s Health Inequality Strategy should prioritise mental health services across the capital and, alongside the GLA, should work with the London Health Board to promote better mental health support for young people. Further to this, there is a need for those in positions of authority or who have frequent interactions with young people to be better trained in how to identify and support those suffering from mental health conditions.
- Commitment to protect and enhance investment in community sport initiatives across London which engage young people in physical activity, particularly in areas of high deprivation and where traditionally communities have been most hard to reach.
- The Mayor and the GLA should look to develop public spaces, including the Royal Parks, to support free activities for young people.
- The Mayor and the GLA should encourage the Metropolitan Police Service to tackle shops that supply young people with alcohol illegally.
- The Mayor and the GLA should utilise the Mayor’s Health Inequality Strategy and the London Health Board to cement mental health as a priority concern.
- Metropolitan Police Officers should receive mental health training in order to identify and treat people who they suspect have mental health conditions, in an appropriate way.