Wigan charity says youth centres can give young people a way out of cost-of-living lockdown

A Wigan charity has spoken out about how youth centres can help tackle isolation during the cost-of-living crisis.
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Wigan Youth Zone has responded to findings released by national youth charity OnSide that highlight the impact the cost-of-living crisis is having on the out-of-school lives of young people, as well as the role youth centres play in giving them a way out of this ‘cost of living lockdown’.

Generation Isolation surveyed 5,072 young people, of which 15 per cent were from the North West, aged 11 to 18 in England, in partnership with YouGov.

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Many of the findings are startling, highlighting how the cost-of-living crisis is keeping young people ‘locked down.’

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The report’s key findings are:

  • 24 per cent of 11 to 18-year-olds in the North West have stopped out-of-school activities like sports, dance and seeing friends because of the cost-of-living crisis – as families divert funds.
  • Young people are living isolated lives, with an increasing number of young people in the North West spend most of their free time on screens, and 51 per cent of young people spending most of their free time in their bedrooms.
  • Young people are living in a challenging context, with 68 per cent concerned about the cost-of-living crisis.

Wigan Youth Zone says that youth clubs like it are an untapped solution to the issues highlighted in the Generation Isolation report - because they give young people access to vital character-building opportunities and affordable activities that boost confidence, build skills for adulthood and, through access to trusted youth workers, help them navigate the pressing challenges and worries they face such as the cost of living.

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Wigan Youth Zone’s CEO Anthony Ashworth-Steen said: “One of the worst parts about these findings is that they come as no shock to me or other youth work professionals because we see the reality day in, day out.

"We have supported over 2,500 young people in the last 12 months who come from the most deprived areas of the country and present in need of a good meal, relief from day-to-day pressures and a listening ear – at our charity, they get all three.

"Over the past year, we have distributed over 20,000 free meals to young people, we have provided food packages and warm clothes, and we have supported over 150 young people into employment, education or training, who were in receipt of benefits prior to our involvement.

"We, and other charities, have had to step up our support because there is a real danger that young people in our community will go without if we do not – which we know will have a detrimental effect on their health in the short, medium and long term.

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"But we know there are so many young people who are in their bedrooms, scared to leave the house and feeling alone – this does not need to be the case. We are here for you.”

Generation Isolation research shows the positive effect attending a youth centre has on young people.

Around 81 per cent of young people who attend a youth centre in The North West say it has helped them overcome difficulties, and 89 per cent say it allows them to learn new skills.

Generation Isolation also shows that youth club attendees have richer social lives because they spend more time face-to-face with friends (21 per cent spend most of their free time with their friends vs 13 per cent of those in the North West).

In addition the research highlights that young people who attend youth centres are better prepared for adulthood than those who don’t.

Just 11 per cent of young people who attend youth clubs said they do not have the opportunity to learn the skills to help them become independent like cooking, managing money, accessing employment, compared to 22 per cent of all young people.

However, there is a lack of widespread opportunity to gain these benefits, with just seven per cent of young people in the North West currently attending a Youth Centre and 49 per cent saying they do not have a youth club near them.

Wigan Youth Zone supports more than 6,000 young people across Wigan and Leigh providing seven days a week access to activities, opportunities, and support from youth workers for just 50p a session and £5 a year membership.

One of the young people supported by Wigan Youth Zone is Ryan, 16, who said: "Wigan Youth Zone has been my escape from struggles at home.

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"It's where I can hang with my mates, eat for cheap, train in the gym, and I even get to go on residentials for free, like when we went to Surfdonia in Wales.

"Without it, I'd be stuck in my room, staring at my phone, wondering when things will get better."

Generation Isolation also highlights the mental health challenges faced by the region’s young people.

Around 49 per cent of young people in the North West report high or very high levels of anxiety.

When asked why, the top reasons were: What people think of them (47 per cent), worries about their future (45 per cent), and exam pressures (36 per cent).

To read the full Generation Isolation report visit: www.onsideyouthzones.org/generationisolation

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