Some of the heaviest burden of the Covid-19 pandemic has fallen on the shoulders of young people. They may have born the lowest risk of disease, but they have had to make some of the greatest sacrifices in our fight against it. Many will continue to carry its weight for years to come.
The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on our young people has shone a light onto a demographic that decision-makers often exclude. There’s plenty of debate amongst politicians and business leaders about what young people need to catch up on their studies, tackle the mental health crisis and create job opportunities when youth unemployment is soaring.
Yet these conversations are missing the most crucial ingredient – the insight and ideas of young people themselves. And young people have noticed they are not being heard. YouGov polling published today by The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award shows that three-quarters of 14-24-year-olds feel politicians rarely listen to their views. If we want a Covid recovery plan that really works for the UK’s youth, it’s never been more urgent to bring them to the table.
What’s clear is that young people want to be heard and they want to help make positive change happen. Over recent years, a growing tide of youth activism, both in person and online, shows that young people care about the future and want to shape it – from the climate strikes, to mental health campaigns, to the Black Lives Matter movement. And our recent research finds that Covid-19 has unlocked a new energy among young people who want to make a difference. Nearly four in ten young people are more interested in politics than they were before the pandemic. And nearly 40% want to get more involved in campaigns on issues that are important to them. Our young people are readier than ever to get stuck in to rebuilding a society that works for all.
We believe it is time to listen – really listen – to what young people have to say, to what they want to see changed. And so we worked with them to find out. More than 2,000 young people were involved in developing or voting for a series of specific policy changes that they want to see put in place to help them recover stronger – and Our Future Unlimited: A Youth Manifesto for the Covid Recovery is the result.
The manifesto is a powerful read. Young people want all new laws to take our environment and the impact on future generations into account. They want employers to work with schools and colleges to create more work experience and mentoring opportunities. They want social action to count towards formal qualifications and better funding for youth clubs. They want more specialist mental health support in schools and increased school funding to help young people from economically deprived areas succeed.
We’re now calling on everyone – particularly our politicians, business leaders, decision and culture-makers – to study this manifesto, to talk directly to young people to better understand their needs and to do all they can to act on them.
To kickstart the discussions, we’ve set up conversations between young people and decision-makers in business and politics. From ASDA to TikTok, from the Mother and Fathers of the House, Harriet Harman MP and Sir Peter Bottomley MP, to the Minister for Children, Vicky Ford MP, leaders have stepped forward to #ListenWithoutLimits to what our young people have to say.
We now encourage more to take their lead. We encourage more to ask their young workforce, constituents, members of their communities, their own children, to tell them what they need and want to recover from the pandemic, stronger, together.
We encourage you to join the conversation too.
Read the Manifesto