BLOG: International Youth Day

3 August 2021

Today, Thursday 12th August is International Youth Day. The theme this year is ‘Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health’. The theme aims to highlight that the “success of such a global effort will not be achieved without the meaningful participation of young people”.  

International Youth Day started in 2000 to draw attention to a given set of cultural and legal issues surrounding young people. After researching youth issues from the late 90’s, the general consensus surrounding young people appears to still remain the same. The YMCA recently highlighted that “unemployment, crime, drug and alcohol abuse, poor educational attainment and teenage pregnancy” all remains high. (YMCA: A different world – the challenges facing young people).

Exactly 21 years on, International Youth Day still has great importance in raising awareness of the issues and challenges facing young people and what ‘we’ can do to support and develop the next generation as they continue to face similar challenges as those from 20 years ago.

After recently speaking with six young people living on the Isle of Bute who are involved in volunteering with Achievement Bute and reading a report from Landed Peer Education who have successfully trained up 45 young people to become Peer Educators, it is important to note that not all of the factors recognised in the YMCA report are the same for every young person, everywhere. Young people themselves are working had to negate and reduce the challenges that the report identified, and quite often, whilst facing some or all of the challenges themselves.

Several organisations reported an increase in local young people wishing to volunteer and provide their support. This was an unexpected outcome for many and something that organisations will develop further.”

Landed Peer Education reported that the majority of young people recruited came from disadvantaged backgrounds and had an Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) score of 4 or more which meant they were more likely to be affected by health inequalities and health problems in later life. Over the course of the Volunteering Support Fund 2018 – 2021, 4,992 hours were volunteered by 314 young people seen to be at risk of offending. The volunteers supported peer mentor and youth projects, community activism, environmental projects and I.T support. (VSF 2018-21 Final Report)

Volunteering with young people myself enables me a little insight into the current challenges for young people, as well as the positive changes young people bring to their communities. It seems that young people are studying for longer, more aware of the importance of healthy and active lifestyles and more aware of our environment. The UN #YouthStats for the environment and climate change found that “89% of youth respondents say young people can make a difference on climate change.” (UNEP, GlobeScan Survey)

Although the challenges highlighted in the YMCA report may have remained the same in some areas, others may have seen a reduction or unfortunately even an increase. The report did recognise that “a new set of challenges are coming to the fore”, and from supporting a number of youth organisations in my role as a Development Officer at Impact Funding Partners this has become increasingly evident, especially over the last 18 months due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Technology is referenced a lot as a barrier, not only to accessing education but to socialising, finding out about new opportunities and general local events. A recent sustainability report produced through the Volunteering Support Fund 2018 – 21 found that there were, “strong digital inequalities and access opportunities within the communities in which they provide support and opportunities to”, and from a volunteering perspective there was a call to “ensure that digital engagement was not too strong a focus of future funding to ensure the physical elements of volunteering were equally supported.” (Impact Funding Partners, Sustainability Report, November 2020).

Cheviot Youth, which was funded through the Volunteering Support Fund 2018 – 2021 recognise the importance of equal access to technology but also in ensuring young people have a ‘healthy start’.

The organisations ‘Under One Roof’ initiative aims to provide support and guidance to young people at this time of unprecedented challenges. A series of programmes, events and workshops are tailored to the individual young person; which come in the form of job clubs, certificated training, volunteer opportunities, emotional and mental health support service and supported employment.

Ian Rendall Reid, Manager at Cheviot Youth commented that, “this range of support offered by our professional and highly qualified staff and volunteer team ensures that all our young people are able to access a healthy, balanced and thought out programme that addresses their concerns and meets their needs.”

Access to technology, the importance of having a healthy start and the constant ‘at risk’ challenge are examples that only just touch the surface. So, what can ‘we’ do?

I chose to write a blog highlighting some of the challenges that young people in Scotland currently face, but to also spotlight the remarkable efforts that many young people go to on a daily basis to help push forward and develop safer and more inclusive communities for us all.

Perhaps you or your organisation could consider highlighting the importance of International Youth Day with a series of social media posts? Or, consider highlighting a young person or youth group that has created change or positive impact within your community?

There may be youth events happening in your area, perhaps consider going along and looking to partner or support with organisations and groups that specifically support youth issues.  

 

#YoungScot #NeverMoreNeeded #YouthStats