New research from the Back on Track report, released today by YMCA, reveals that 77% of young people have felt lonelier and more isolated during lockdown, 73% feel more stressed, and more than half (56%) are worried about falling behind at school. Five months into a global pandemic, this vulnerable and disproportionately affected group find themselves anxious, isolated and futureless.
As young people prepare to make the tentative return to school, 54% are worried that the pandemic will affect their final grades, rising to 75% and 64% amongst 15 and 16-year-olds respectively. Beyond exam performance, young people are worried about their futures with two-fifths concerned about getting a job (41%) and a quarter (27%) stating that the pandemic has affected their decisions on what to do once school has finished.
Naturally, this pressure will have affected young people’s overall mental health which has taken a significant hit since March. YMCA found that more than half (57%) stated their mental health has worsened and more than two-fifths (43%) are worried about their wellbeing as they come out of the lockdown.
Financial and family worries have also been a cause for concern, as more than half of young people report feeling worried about family job loss or not having enough money (57%), and 49% are anxious about their family’s mental health and wellbeing.
While the vast majority of young people (93%) have enjoyed spending more time at home, YMCA also found that 58% have reported that their relationships with family have become strained during lockdown. With pressures building at home and three-quarters (73%) of young people saying they are tired of spending so much time online, having somewhere safe to socialise and feel supported post-lockdown is essential.
As the Government relaxes restrictions young people find themselves desperately in need of access to safe spaces, positive mentors, mediation and mental health support – the fundamentals of good youth services. However, these services have suffered devastating cuts of 70% since 2010/11.
Denise Hatton, Chief Executive of YMCA England & Wales, said:
“Youth services offer a vital lifeline within communities and provide young people with support, advice and a place to go when they need it most. In our Out of Service report earlier this year, YMCA warned that without significantly re-investing in youth services we would be condemning young people to become a lonely, lost generation with nowhere to turn.
“The introduction of lockdown has accelerated and exacerbated the situation, with young people forced to stay at home, isolate themselves from their peers and be without access to positive activities.
“A generation which was already at a disadvantage have been dealt a further blow by COVID-19 and face deep uncertainty about what is next for them in its wake. What is essential to support young people through the easing of lockdown and beyond are safe spaces like youth services. They can be utilised to carefully and positively build young people’s confidence, provide much needed support and guidance, and ultimately help them to get back on track.”
Investment in vital youth services is key to helping young people prepare for the future and ensure that they are not left further behind. Therefore, YMCA is calling on the Government to create a Cross Departmental Strategy for Children and Young People’s recovery from COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown.
Each year YMCA supports more than 33,500 people through youth work, and during the pandemic has engaged with even more communities through its digital outreach.
You can download the research, Back on Track, here.