The Recurring Problem

Unemployment.   A recurring problem,

Showing no sign of going away,

No matter what you might hear them say.

Youth unemployment figures,

Yo-yoing up and down,

But not actually telling the full story,

Not revealing the full extent of the problem.

Young people like hamsters,

Running round and round in a wheel,

Asking for experience, but first needing experience,

So getting none and getting nowhere,

Whirling around in their feelings of despair.

Some have graduated,

Holding a rolled up piece of paper that serves no purpose;

Some haven’t thrived in education,

Hiding skills they’re not given a chance to show.

In need of that money,

Some youth find themselves in the Job Centre,

Having to take money from the system,

That may have screwed them over.

A depressing experience,

Usually making them feel worse,

When advisors make you feel it’s your fault,

That you can’t find work.

Instead of being helpful, supportive,

They’re cold, patronising,

Not listening to your true needs,

Like where you want to be in life,

And what may be your dream.

Others may not be about benefits,

But they need a way to get on the bread line,

So what seems like the next best thing?

Why not resort to crime?

Selling drugs or robbing houses ain’t right,

But at least you’ll have somewhere to sleep at night,

Or money to buy the latest shoes and clothes,

And keep paying that contract for your smart phone.

What so many individuals fail to understand,

Is that searching for jobs is no easy demand.

Regular rejections leaving you feeling worthless,

Having no job resulting in feelings of uselessness,

Thinking that your dreams are pointless,

And your self-esteem gets less and less.

The youth need more chances,

To show employers their true worth,

To get opportunities in their chosen fields,

To get that experience they desperately need.

But more than that,

Youth need more support and understanding,

While they’re going through that period of job-hunting,

Because it’s not easy when they’re trying and trying,

But the reality of getting a job seems to be dying.

Image by niekverlaan and used under Creative Commons License.
Image by niekverlaan and used under Creative Commons License.

 

The Time is Now

The budget unveiled by the Conservatives this week revealed that they were scrapping the maintenance grants for lower-income students, but allowing universities to increase their fees beyond £9,000.  This is in spite of some students already resorting to extreme measures to stay financially afloat.

Rather than effecting their pockets, the constant pressure put on students in schools and the over-focus on exams is having a negative effect on their mental health.  It is no secret that the number of young people self-harming is on the rise; however, there continues to be a lack of understanding.  There needs to be some sort of module on mental health in schools.

Knife crime shows no sign of letting up and if anything, these stabbings seem to be a more frequent occurrence.  We are fooled by the news of reported knife crime being down, without considering that there were increases in most offense groups.

Image by PublicDomainPictures and used under Creative Commons License.
Image by PublicDomainPictures and used under Creative Commons License.

According to The Guardian, “Young people are nearly three times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the population, the largest gap in more than 20 years, according to an analysis of official figures.”  Then there is also the problem of young people eventually becoming employed, and then struggling to progress in their field, buy a property or even live above the bread line.

The number of young people who are homeless is ‘more than three times the official figure’, and mental health waiting lists are ‘spiralling out of control’.  There are a number of other issues facing young people, as they strive to grow and move forward in life.

However, the system and powers that be continue to find ways to hold them back or put them down.  Too often, the youth are an afterthought or not seen as important as their elders.  They keep squeezing us and cutting our funding or services, but they are always quick to come down hard on us when anything goes wrong.

Nevertheless, it is up to us as young people to help ourselves and fight through the system that wants to keep us down.  We have the capabilities and through the right action, our voices will be heard.  And even if they don’t want to hear us, then at least we will be paving our own way and making a better life for the youth at present and the youth of the future.

Photo by real-napster and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by real-napster and used under Creative Commons License.

You just have to ask yourself, what can I do to be the change and how can I get involved to make a change?  The time is now.

Being unemployed makes young people feel useless

Annoyed.  Frustrated.  Tired.  Stressed.  Confused.  Depressed.  And most of all, useless.  These are terms some young people have used to describe their feelings of being unemployed.  One young person added, “There isn’t much you can do without a constant income”, while another went further to say, “It felt like I couldn’t do anything”.

In this struggling economic climate, when the population is living longer and technology is overtaking some job roles, it is becoming increasingly difficult for young people to land a job.  And once they do land a job, they then face the issue of actually keeping it or trying to progress up the career ladder.

According to parliament.uk’s youth unemployment statistics, 16.9% of 16-24 year olds were unemployed in September to November 2014.  Although the figure decreased by 3.2 percentage points from the previous year, it did increase by 0.9 percentage points from the previous quarter.  However, these statistics probably do not tell the full story, as some young people are likely to have fallen through the cracks of the system.

I am one of those statistics, signing on every other Monday, just so that I can receive a little income to contribute to my family home.  Signing on was never part of my initial life plan (I should have graduated and be working with a fashion company right now) and I hate doing it, but I cannot seem to find a job, despite my education or experience.  This is often the case for numerous other young people.

Photo by Cmglee and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by Cmglee and used under Creative Commons License.

My 19-year-old sister is currently unemployed.  She previously held a temporary retail position at House of Fraser, which she struggled to get even with a retail qualification.  What is worse is that she is now struggling to find another retail job, despite having experience under her belt to go alongside her qualification.  “You want to find a job and you have the experience, but it’s never enough experience or the right experience,” she said.

However, one of the biggest obstacles facing young jobseekers is trying to get paid work.  Don’t get me wrong, volunteering is great and work experience is an invaluable, necessary stepping stone for many job roles.  Yet too many individuals want something for nothing, or they would gladly pay you a pittance.

There are now regular debates and reports on the issue of unpaid internships and why they should be stopped.  I even had a company who was offering me an unpaid internship ask if I would be able to arrange for the job centre to pay my travel expenses, which was what they were supposed to be offering.

Although internships serve as a stepping stone into a particular industry, don’t young people deserve to earn just a little something?  My sister said, “I don’t see why we should have to work for free.  It’s not fair… A job is never guaranteed.”

In their desperation to find a job, young people find themselves being forced into roles that they hate or may make them unhappy.  It is as if they are brainwashed into believing that their lives amount to finding a job, which seems to be a central ethos for the Job Centre.  Charlene*, 22, said: “Being on JSA [Job Seekers Allowance] is incredibly stressful and soon it’s like you spend more time trying to please the job centre than actually finding a job.”

Although employment is important, should it come at the cost of the happiness and/or emotional well-being of young people, who are already faced with a number of other issues.

Photo by PDPics and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by PDPics and used under Creative Commons License.

Being unemployed – particularly for a long period of time – can be one of the toughest and most demeaning things, especially when prices are constantly rising and we are taught that getting a job is the main goal in life.

More needs to be done to get young people into sufficient employment and greater support (particularly emotional support) is essential.  The government talks about it, but they don’t seem to be doing enough and the job centre is not always effective.

“I think signing on makes it worse, because you’re reminded all the time that you don’t have a job and no matter how hard you look, you’re constantly told it’s not enough” says Charlene.

Thousands of young people are striving to find employment, after countless job applications and/or numerous years of studying, but they continue to find themselves in the same position.  It gradually chips away at their confidence and self-esteem, as they start to lose the passion they once had.

Seeking employment eventually becomes a game of, ‘Who will give me a chance’ or ‘Who will be willing to see my potential’, leaving young people feeling annoyed, frustrated, tired, confused, depressed and useless.  It needs to come to an end.P1120595

*Name has been changed

Contains Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence v3.0.

Are young people worse off today than previous generations?

As I spent time speaking about the sick condition of this world with my granddad and how the young people of the world were caught up in it, I started to think about whether the youth of today are worse off than previous generations.

The response to this would never be straightforward, because of the significant changes that have taken place from generation to generation.  In many ways, young people are not worse off today than previous generations, yet in many ways, they are.

With the constant increase in knowledge over time, there have been numerous developments in travel, methods of communication and other areas of our everyday lives.  In fact, many of these changes and developments have taken place, because of the revolutionary thing called technology.

The use of technology allows us to complete a number of tasks using faster, simpler and more efficient methods.  It is now easier for us to communicate with other individuals from around the globe  than ever before, leading to an increase in opportunities.  The Internet gives us easy access to an ocean of information and there is entertainment in abundance with access to televisions, computers, games consoles and mobile phones.

Image by blickpixel and used under Creative Commons License.
Image by blickpixel and used under Creative Commons License.

In many ways, technology means that we have a lot more variety than the young people of previous generations, as there is so much at our fingertips.  You could say that we’ve been privileged and spoilt for choice.  However, this also comes with a price.

Technology can be a blessing, but it can also be a curse.  It comes with a whole set of new problems that generations before us did not have to contend with.  There are the issues of sexting, hacking and cyber bullying, amongst others.

The ease of cyber communication has also messed up the ability for many young people to physically communicate with others, whilst the obsession with gadgets has dampened the imagination of some young individuals.  Instead of creating new games or creating scenarios with their dolls, they would rather play around with an iPad or XBox.

The divide in class – which is continuing to widen due to the economy and actions of the Conservative government – has had a very negative effect on the young people of this generation.  It has led to an increase in disruptive youth who are trying to gain the same sort of status or earnings as the class above them.  This also leads to lawlessness, knife crime and gun crime.

This is also a generation of young people who have grown up amongst the constant reports of gang culture and the issues that come with that, particularly violent crime and involvement with drugs.  They will be drawn into this, as they mimic the actions of others before them and try to gain their social standings.

Photo by cheifyc and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by cheifyc and used under Creative Commons License.

It does not help that there is a blatant lack of disrespect for life and authority.  This effects all young people, whether they are embroiled in “gang culture” or not, because a life could be taken for the silliest little thing.  Respect is something that has become extremely distorted in our society, specifically among the young generation.

The issues regarding economy and finance are also major factors in making young people worse off today than previous generations.  Those going to university now have to pay a large fee and leave in a pile of debt, unlike previous generations who were able to attend university for free.  And to make matters worse, there is a constant push for young people to attend university, which will lead to debt, without there even being a promise of a job afterwards.

Graduates struggle to find work like the many other unemployed young individuals and when they do eventually find work, many of them are forced to work in menial jobs with low pay and the unlikelihood of promotion.  In fact, an older individual I was speaking to told me that it is a lot harder for young people to find work now than when they were younger.

The struggle to find well paid work combined with the soaring house prices also means that this young generation will struggle to purchase a property in the future, which I think is unfair and unacceptable.

All of these issues do not help with the issue of increased pressure in our society, as we live in a time that is extremely competitive.  This pressure, mixed in with the points I raised earlier, has led to an increase in mental health problems among young people, including stress, self-harm and suicide.  It is also not helped with the constant images being pushed down our throats by the media, which affects the self-esteem of so many young individuals and leads to a number of body issues.

Image by johnhain and used under Creative Commons License.
Image by johnhain and used under Creative Commons License.

There are many different obstacles facing young people, and it would seem that they are worse off than previous generations, despite the increases in technology and all that comes with it.

Young people are facing issues left, right and centre in a sick world that shows no signs of getting better.  They are fighting to get ahead, which does not always lead to positive results.  Their parents are striving to give them the best possible life, which leads to an increase in working hours and a decrease in family time, which also has an adverse effect on young people.

However, we need to find a way to make the best out of a bad situation and rectify some of these problems.  It is just about finding the most effective ways to do this.  How do you think we can make the young generation better off?

We need to find a way to stop the cycle

I am currently reading One Blood: Inside Britain’s Gang Culture by John Heale, and it is constantly opening my eyes and helping me to realise why young people are in the state that they are.

I’ve desperately wanted to understand why young people have resorted to violent crime to resolve their problems, or why there has been a surge in knife crime, or even why they want to be involved in the gang life.  Reading the first four chapters of this book is already making it a lot clearer to me.

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Although everyone has the ability to make their own choices and choose their own path, these young people have been let down by society, the system and even their own communities or family time after time.

Their elders neglect them, ignore their problems, talk down to them, abuse them and the list goes on.  They turn to this life, because they see it as somewhere to belong, with the opportunity to earn a lot of money and be associated with people they can look up to.

The divide between upper and lower class seems to have played a significant part in creating the lawless young people that we see today, yet the government would like to cut their benefits and there are many of them being forced to work in jobs with low pay.  I’m not saying that I agree with it, but is it any wonder that these young people take to the streets to sell drugs?  They will gladly run the risk of being convicted, because they will be making a lot more money this way.

However, the issue of violence is a little different.  The current generation of young people have grown up surrounded by this gang culture, with the regular reporting of stabbings and shootings.  In a way, they are used to the violence, so they start to become desensitized to the violence.  As more and more young people begin using knives, more of them begin to feel unsafe, so they then start carrying knives and the cycle continues.

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Although gang culture may not be entirely relevant anymore, the issues of violence and selling drugs is incredibly relevant in our society.  Young people feel like they have something to prove, as they demand respect in a society where their voices are so often ignored.

We need to listen to young people; interact with them, get them engaged and help them to understand the value of human life.  If not, we’ll lose them forever and who wants to think about what our future may be like then.

Why cutting benefits is not the solution for youth unemployment

Although reported youth unemployment figures have decreased over the past two years, it is a recurring problem that needs to be effectively addressed.  The Conservatives are continuously making cuts, that not only affect young people but also wider society, and they now want to cut benefits for unemployed 18 to 21-year-olds.

These cuts could have a seriously negative effect on young people who are unable to find a job after a certain period of time, resulting in a struggle to meet their needs and perhaps leading to poverty.  Not all young people find work with ease, even those with university qualifications.  Cutting their benefits will not necessarily reduce youth unemployment, but rather increase poverty, with the possibility of pushing charities to the brink.

There is also the problem of young people being forced to work in “low rate” jobs for very little pay, as these are the only types  of jobs that will accept them, and others being pushed into any job role available, even if it is not their chosen career field.  I believe that young people should be encouraged to chase their dreams and pushed into jobs (even menial jobs) that will bring them a step closer to that dream.

Lack of support from the Jobcentre also seems to be a major issue, as they are supposed to be a source of help towards the young unemployed finding work.

It seems that the Jobcentre would rather you find  any job just to pass the time, whether you like it or not, which I don’t believe is right.  This life is too short and already overrun with pressures to spend time doing a job you despise.

Youth unemployment is an issue and I understand the struggle as an unemployed young person myself, but I don’t think that these benefit cuts are going to make a positive change.  There needs to be more opportunities created and more meaningful job roles that will pay young people a slightly higher wage.  What are your views on youth unemployment and benefit cuts?

Photo by Cmglee and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by Cmglee and used under Creative Commons License.

Creative Futures Programme Day 13: Debates

After being away for a week, I finally returned to the LNK unit for the Creative Futures Programme, where we discussing the debate element of ‘Positive Summer Vibes’.  We were joined by Daniel Harran and the ‘SONS’ from online community radio station, EDGE fm.

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We knew that a number of debate segments would be a definite, but the topics for these debates were still up in the air.  Our own debates broke out during the session, as we decided on the topics that would be most effective on the day.  We spoke about the effect of music on the mind and stereotypes in society, as well as mentioning urban culture, the race issue and the faith issue, amongst other things.

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However, after some consideration and seriously in-depth conversations, we decided on three main topics and a possible fourth, which relate to not only young people, but also our elders.  We also noted the importance of having some kind of resolution at the end of the debates, rather than just leaving the subject all up in the air after a heated discussion.

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After time spent with the guys from EDGE fm, we continued to speak about what exactly we would need for July 26th and what plans we would need to put in place beforehand.  Now that we know the event will be running from 10am until 6pm and that there will be live music, food, fashion, debates and stalls up, we need to sort out the exact time frame and how we’re going to fill the hours.

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However, we still need more female artists and a band who will be willing to perform, and we would really like to find a reggae or dancehall artist.  It would also be great to have more young people involved with this project – you will gain skills, have a lot of fun and make new friends.  So if you’re 16-24, unemployed and on Jobseekers, come down to the LNK unit in Centrale next Tuesday at 2pm.  It would be great to see you there.