January's Reading List
Each month, members of the team share writing that has made us think, inspired our work, or piqued our interest.
Read what we've been reading this month.
DCMS has published a new Youth Rapid Evidence Assessment produced by NatCen – the National Centre for Social Research. Written in May 2020 and covering data from before the Covid pandemic, the report summarises evidence from the research literature on the current and emerging challenges and opportunities facing young people in the UK, in order to inform Government thinking on youth policy in the future coming years. Whilst the wide-ranging report will offer few surprises to those with a watching brief on youth policy, it is a helpful summary of quality evidence on the status of young people in our society. It provides a helpful if brief review of young people’s experience of wellbeing, health, learning and work experiences, of their sense of safety and equal treatment, and their wider participation and voice in society. The appendices provide a valuable and accessible summary of the methodology and a treasure trove of links to useful statistics and research reports. – Tom, Executive Director
This Peer Research Toolkit, a collaboration between Partnership for Young London and the Mayor’s Young Londoners Fund, builds on their earlier work exploring organisational approaches to peer-led research in the sector. It is designed to guide organisations through the peer research process - that is, in the context of the youth sector, research that is steered and conducted by young people - and brings together the experiences of over 300 youth organisations, highlighting best practice through the use of six case studies. The toolkit outlines the principles of peer research and provides a step-by-step framework for the process, from recruitment of young people to co-producing analysis and sharing findings. Partnership for Young London is also running a series of webinars on peer research alongside the launch of the toolkit, which you can sign up to via their events page. – Jo, Project Manager
The House of Lords Select Committee on Youth Unemployment has recently published a report into its 2021 session. Entitled ‘Skills for Every Young Person’, it sets out in detail the longstanding drivers of youth unemployment, and the oral and written evidence it has received relating to the skills gaps affecting young people. The report makes a series of recommendations about actions that could be taken in a variety of different areas of public policy, including careers guidance and work experience, further education, apprenticeships, tackling disadvantage and welfare. Crucially, the report also identifies that the issue of youth unemployment ‘sits uneasily between a variety of different government departments’, which ‘results in a confusing landscape of policies intended to tackle the multiplicity of issues.’ It recommends the establishment of an independent Young People’s Commissioner for young people aged 16 to 24 who can interrogate government policy and be the voice of young people, in a similar role to that of the Children’s Commissioner. – Steve, COO
In this report by the Institute for Employment Studies, Cristiana Orlando presents the key survey findings of the Health Foundation’s young people’s future Health inquiry on their views of what good quality work and support means to them. Reporting insights and recommendations from 1,345 young people across the UK, the report finds the working conditions for young people under 25 have worsened during the pandemic, with 62% of young people aged 16-25 feeling that the pandemic has made it harder for them to find high quality work. Six out of ten young people report a negative impact on employment due to the pandemic, especially regarding mental health as a barrier to obtaining quality employment. The report directs employers and government policy efforts to consider four key factors that will improve young people's access to better quality opportunities: appropriate skills and education, emotional support, social connections, and a financial safety net. Young people have established these to ensure a smooth transition to adulthood and to lay the foundation for a healthier future. – Zunaira, Research and Projects Assistant
‘Key Data on Young People’ from the Association for Young People’s Health (AYPH) is the latest in a series of publications tracking the health of young people between the ages of 10 and 24. AYPH sources publicly available medical data to provide a wide-ranging account of all aspects of young people’s health including mental health. The website presents a portal of health-related topics, all with accessible infographics to help bring the data to life. Additionally, AYPH makes learning resources available for secondary school aged young people. The authors highlight the role that youth services could have in making health-related guidance and information available to the young people they engage. The role of supportive conversations to help young people reflect on and develop their own understanding of health issues as they make the transition to adulthood seems particularly relevant to all those working in the youth sector. – Josef, Data Lead
The latest report from the Young Women’s Trust, ‘One Size Fits No One’, looks at young women’s experiences of navigating an inadequate employment opportunities and benefits system. The research, which was led by a team of 28 Peer Researchers, draws on survey responses from over 1000 young women across England and Wales with experience of unemployment, underemployment and/or claiming benefits, as well as 23 semi-structured telephone interviews with young women, an online focus group with four care experienced young women (facilitated by a peer researcher with care experience), and a rapid evidence review of related academic and grey literature. The report shares a number of key findings (for example, that a lack of flexible and accessible job opportunities is preventing young women from entering the workforce, and that 41% of the young women surveyed disagreed that the current government is aware of and responsive to the needs of young women) as well as key recommendations for policy makers, services, and employers. – Catherine, Organisational Data Lead
Ofsted has published its annual report for 2020/21, providing a ‘state of the nation’ view of education and children’s social care over the 2020 to 2021 academic year, as schools and care settings were blighted by lockdowns and restrictions triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the long-term effects of school closures are not yet known, this year’s report has found that “nearly all children in England have suffered” as a result of repeated disruptions and closures.
The report documents several troubling findings, including how;
- The loss of education, disrupted routine, and lack of activities led some children to develop physical and mental health problems. Loneliness, boredom and misery became endemic among the young;
- Children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) had additional barriers to overcome as many were unable to access the support they rely on; and
- Vulnerable children, at risk of harm or neglect, disappeared from teachers’ line of sight, resulting in significantly lower levels of referrals to social care.
The report also outlines systematic improvements and reforms that must now be taken forward in education and children’s social care, in order for children and young people to regain a sense of normality in their lives and their education. – Hannah, Communications Officer
In ‘Reimagining Crisis Response, Inclusively’, Chicago Beyond invites us to take a deeper look at the systems built around caring for individuals dealing with mental health challenges. This is a timely discussion following World Mental Health Day in October, and considering the findings of NHS Digital’s 'Mental Health of Children and Young People in England', which outlined that one in six children aged 5-16 were identified as having a probable mental health problem in July 2020. Chicago Beyond examines the way in which current response systems might be impacting citizens and the changes that should be prioritised. – Soizic, Enterprise Development Manager
SSIR (the Stanford Social Innovation Review) has recently published a series of articles reflecting on the concept of ‘collective impact’, ten years after the initial article that brought it into our vocabulary. I particularly enjoyed this article by Paul Schmizt, focusing on 10 Dangers to Collective Impact. Schmitz starts off with a powerful statement: collective impact is common sense. “Of course it takes a variety of leaders and groups working together to address complex social challenges that no one person or entity can solve on their own” he says. However, he also notes that collective impact runs counter to the approaches that we all have learned, and been incentivised to follow. Schmitz goes on to outline ten ‘dangers’ to collective impact, which I think are actually much broader dangers of which we should all be aware. The golden threads that run through these ‘dangers’ are drift or lack of focus; a failure to make hard decisions when the time comes; “having the wrong people at the table” and an associated lack of openness and inclusivity; managing movements like organisations with too much hierarchy and control; and a failure to use data to inform adaptations. Schmitz ends with a summary of the three features of successful collective impact initiatives (clear strategy, responding to community context, and a focus on culture), but also with a note of caution: “I have seen more promise than progress in terms of achieving population-level and systems-level change”. I’d love to think that 2022 could be the year that bucks the trend. - Bethia, CEO