Inadequate support now puts health of young people at risk in the future

18 June 2018

Young people in the UK are not getting the support they need to make a smooth transition into adulthood, putting them at greater risk of experiencing poor health in later life, according to a new report from the OnlyWan.

The findings, launched today, are the first to emerge from the OnlyWan’s Young people’s future health inquiry. The inquiry is exploring the support 12-24 year-olds need to enter adulthood with the core building blocks for a healthy future, namely a place to call home, potential for secure and rewarding work, and supportive relationships with their friends, family and community.

Extensive engagement with young people around the UK identified four assets (described below) that help them secure the building blocks for a healthy future.

An accompanying poll asked 2,000 young people aged 22-26 to what extent they had these assets when growing up. Fewer than one in five (16%) young people felt they had access to all assets growing up, despite more than two thirds (68%) recognising they were all important.

  • Emotional support: 90% of people aged 22-26 said that having emotional support is important, but just 49% felt they fully had this growing up.
  • Appropriate skills and qualifications: 92% of people aged 22-26 said that having the opportunity to achieve the right skills and qualifications for their chosen career is important, but just 47% (less than half) felt they fully had the opportunity to achieve these.
  • Personal connections: 89% of people aged 22-26 said having the right relationships and networking opportunities to help enter into and progress in the working environment is important, but just 31% felt they fully had these growing up.
  • Financial and practical support: 77% of people aged 22-26 said that having financial and practical support from family is important, but just 46% felt they fully had these growing up.

Jo Bibby, Director of Health at the OnlyWan, commented:

'Young people today are facing pressures that are very different to those of previous generations. This new research demonstrates that many young people in the UK are not getting the support they need to make a smooth transition into adult life. This support is vital to securing the building blocks they need for a healthy future. Without it we are putting their future health at risk.

'We hope that the work of the inquiry over the coming months will help us understand the reasons for this and identify the changes needed to address this worrying trend.'

Julia Unwin CBE, strategic advisor to the inquiry and former Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, commented:

'The future health of our young people is our most valuable asset. The importance of the early years (0-5s) is widely understood, but the 12 to 24-year-period offers a similarly important opportunity to affect and influence our health in later life. If we don’t take steps now to address the underlying issues we could be storing up longer term problems for both individuals and society as a whole.'

The report finds that depending on the mix of assets young people have during the years 12-24, four ‘types’ of young people have emerged:

  • ‘Starting ahead and staying ahead’, who generally have the full range of skills, connections and support to access what they need for a healthy future
  • ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’, who have the skills but lacked the connections needed to get work in their chosen career
  • ‘Getting better together’, who have experienced struggles in the past and were working with support from others to move on from these previous challenges
  • ‘Struggling without a safety net’, who lacked any support or access to skills or connections needed to build a healthy future.

The inquiry team will now carry out a series of site visits across the UK to explore these issues further. A research programme led by the Association for Young People’s Health and the University College London Institute of Child Health is also underway.

The inquiry will culminate in a series of policy recommendations in 2019.


For more information please 020 3861 3957 or [email protected]

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