Special report: Crisis of despair as Yorkshire's young people face bleak future

Young people in Yorkshire are facing the bleakest economic future for generations as figures reveal a crisis of despair among under 30s.

Nicola Baraclough's sons Sam Brasnett, 15, and Alex Brasnett, 18, are worried about their future. Pic: Bruce Rollinson

An “alarming proportion” of young people are fearing for their futures and will have to make “unprecedented choices”, amid growing calls for the government to step in and help.

Against a backdrop of crippling mental health issues, a housing crisis and a looming recession brought on by the pandemic, six out of 10 young people in Yorkshire say they do not feel in control of their lives.

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The stark figures, from the Prince’s Trust, also showed more than half of 16-24-year-olds in the region think that finding a job now seems impossible and 72 per cent feel like their life is on hold.

Rachael Ronchetti, north senior head of operations at the Prince’s Trust, said the figures “paint a truly stark picture of how the coronavirus crisis is impacting young people across Yorkshire and the Humber, and the UK”.

“An alarming proportion of young people are feeling increased levels of anxiety, and fears are mounting about their future,” she said.

“It’s imperative that we do all we can now to prevent a generation of young people from losing hope. We must continue to support young people to get jobs that give them the chance of a thriving and more secure future. Failing to do so has many implications on young people’s futures, as time and again we see the correlation between stable and meaningful employment and emotional wellbeing.”

She added that the government, employers and charities needed to work together now to stop the economic effects of the pandemic from “spiralling out of control”.

Research by the New Economics Foundation found that young people were nearly 2.5 times more likely to lose their jobs due to the pandemic and also more likely to be unable to access any financial support.

Head of economics, Alfie Sterling, said the financial safety net of universal credit was not strong enough to stop people getting into serious levels of debt and into a level of poverty that was hard to get out of.

He said: “It's also really bad for the recovery because it means there aren’t enough pounds in people's pockets to spend and create those jobs going forwards.”

He added that the Treasury needed to “hold their nerve” and not pull back the furlough scheme too quickly, to protect jobs.

Coun. Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council and chair of the Local Government Association's children and young people's board said it was “vital the Government doesn’t make the same mistakes it did in 2010”.

“The last decade of austerity has increased inequalities and young people have been among the hardest hit.

“With reports one in five students are planning to defer starting courses, additional support is needed to help young people make difficult and unprecedented choices about their futures.

“Communities need their local councils to drive economic recovery in their own areas, but Coronavirus poses a huge threat to the financial viability of local authorities and without urgent financial assistance from Government there is a very real possibility councils won’t be in a position to lead that recovery.”

A Treasury spokesperson told the Yorkshire Post: “The unprecedented actions we’ve taken to protect jobs and businesses through this crisis will help mitigate the impact on our economy and young people across the whole country.

"We want to support young people across the North to have the best possible opportunities in life, by creating a thriving Northern economy and making the aspiration of home ownership a reality for as many households as possible."

It pointed to the £13bn allocated to improve transport in the North since 2015 and that nearly half of the £2.5bn Transforming Cities Fund is pledged to northern city regions.

'It feels pointless'

Alex Brasnett, 18, had anticipated finishing school and heading off to university but his future is looking uncertain now that he cannot resit exams for his BTEC Sport.

It is common for young people studying a BTEC, a qualification taken instead of A Levels, to attempt the exams after the first year of study to test their knowledge of the subject and get a feel for what they need to work on.

They then resit the exams in the second year, when they have a better knowledge of the subject, and those become their final grades.

In the absence of resits, Alex is worried that his first set of exams will be used to decide whether he gets into university.

He is hoping to go to University Campus of Football Business (UCFB), a specialist sports university in Manchester, to study football coaching and management but he is concerned this now will not happen.

“With this being my final year and wanting to go to uni, I have worked harder this year. It now feels a bit pointless,” he said.

Alex is currently in lockdown in Ripon with his mum Nicola Barraclough and two brothers, 21-year-old Jamie, who has just finished a degree in accountancy and finance at York St John University and 15-year old Sam, who will be doing his GCSEs next year.

Ms Barraclough said: “Jamie was wanting to apply to a company to go and train with them for three years but at the moment there doesn’t seem to be any vacancies as nobody is looking to take any young recruits on.”

Like many parents, she said she did not feel confident to send Sam, who is in Year 10, back to school just yet but feels very torn.

“As a parent I’m worried about him missing out on his education at a really vital time.”

She said it was difficult seeing her sons being so pessimistic about their future, adding: “They feel like all the hard work that they’ve done is going to waste. They’re looking into the future and they’re thinking that they’re not going to have a career. When we apply for jobs, we put on our CV what grades we got, they’re feeling like they’ll have nothing.”