Are young people born since 2000 to be known as the Austerity Generation?

Imagine being 10 and at youth club that evening the leaders pass the bucket around, and ask you to make a cake to sell to keep the youth club going.

Imagine being 11 and the youth club that you went to closing.

Imagine being 12 and your parents have to move house because, after your brother moved out last year, they cant afford to stay in the same house, and they need to be in something with one less bedroom.

Imagine at 12 1/2 having to change school and friendship groups because of this.

Imagine that at 13 your birthday meal has to be got from the foodbank because the universal credit payment didnt come through on time after the house move.

Imagine being 13 and not coping with your new school, and you ask for help and counselling, but no one really though you were serious.

Imagine being 14 and developing an eating disorder

Imagine being 14 and having to wait 6 months for a Camhs referral and appointment.

Imagine being 14 and just having to cope and be told you need more resilience.

Imagine being 15 and trying to cope in school, where there was no let up.

Imagine being 16 and advised to stay in school or college

Imagine being 17 and realising that in college, that you get to do a 1 day timetable in something that you really dont want to do.

Imagine being 17 and the thing you want to do, you cant because the education maintenance allowance doesnt ‘exist anymore’

Imagine being 18 and realising that college might be the answer, but a bus ticket to it is too expensive.

Imagine being this young person.

Imagine that every year since you were 10 you were directly affected by the underfunding of youth services, education, travel, housing, social services, mental health provision, imgine that every year there was a change to be made.

Imagine how that uncertainty might have an effect.

When its not just one thing.

Its been one thing every year.

Imagine that being 14 might have been easier with a youthworker around.

Imagine that being 16 might have been easier with a youthworker around to help think through education choices or help realise dreams and potential.

There will be 17 year olds, who for the last 7 years all they have experiences is something that had, being taken away. Something they want that might be good for them being out of reach, something that used to exist not being there anymore, something that makes their already challenging life even more difficult to try and reach. I guess thats tough love by the tory government, or just tough luck.

Imagine thinking that it wasnt just your postcode that you feel left out in, but that its the wrong time in the world to be a young person.

Imagine how being 10 was a time of hope, of dreaming and of looking forward to the rest of life with excitement. Imagine having all of that dashed by austerity cuts.

Imagine being blamed because you’re now a bored teenager who hangs around the town.

It isnt what you dreamed for. what you wanted. But dreams are dangerous now.

Imagine that you are still the problem.

Imagine that no one still wants to listen.

Imagine being shunted from one 6 week course to another.

Imagine being in between. Out of one home, not in another.

When a secondary school teacher in a Northern Secondary school said to me a few weeks ago;

‘Young people perceive that no one cares about them’

‘Children and young people deserve investment, they have been at the rough end of austerity’

‘They are vulnerable first and foremost, they need people who care and then be alongside them’

They might just be right.

Yet, that doesnt seem to matter to the current government.

In a discussion at the UK prime ministers questions yesterday there was the following exchange:

Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab/Co-op)

Q7. Last year, a quarter of young people thought about suicide, and one in nine attempted suicide. Young people are three times more likely to be lonely than older people. Knife crime is up, and gang crime is up. There are fewer opportunities for young people than ever before—68% of our youth services have been cut since 2010—with young people having nowhere to go, nothing to do and no one to speak to. Is it now time for a statutory youth service, and will the Prime Minister support my ten-minute rule Bill after Prime Minister’s questions? [905633]

The Prime Minister- Theresa May
I think “Nice try” is the answer to the hon. Gentleman, but he said that there were fewer opportunities for young people here in this country. May I just point out to him the considerable improvement there has been in the opportunities for young people to get into work and the way in which we have seen youth unemployment coming down?

Whilst the question may not have got to the hub of the whole matter and the situation facing many young people who have now experienced 7 years of austerity, and have a firm grip of how their lives are and have been affected. It is as true to say that the response from the Prime Minister is one who has no idea on what 8 years of targetted cuts that have affected families may have had on young people.

Young people still the brunt of the cut backs. Still demonised by the press. They deserve much better. Even just to catch up with what young people 10 years had the benefit of, no not the benefit of, the right to have.

‘Nice try’ – even the question about young people is belittled in response.

Its as if no one is pretending to try, and helping young people to survive is a mish mash of agencies scrambling around for the crumbs off the plate. The gaps are huge and many are falling through.

‘Nice Try’ nah when it comes to young people, this government have barely tried. And dont even start on NCS.

Mark Smith has written this piece at length on the site detailing all the research and reports which indicate the effect of austerity policy on young people education. Harrowing. austerity affecting young peoples wellbeing and education

Rethinking young people and ‘low self esteem’

These Young People have just such low self esteem!  

This week I have been attending a 3-day block of lectures on Psychology and Christianity as part of my MA course at Durham University. It has been absolutely fascinating. During the three days each of the 17 of us in the room have been given the chance to present to the others a 20 minute presentation on a recent paper in psychology and relate it to ministry, again, fascinating the variety, and even if many of my colleagues applied their papers to other work and ministry, what was insightful was being able to reflect on what it might mean for working with young people.

One paper, and an accompanying lecture on Self Esteem was i thought worth reflecting on further.

Firstly, a few points about Self-esteem. Self-esteem is contested. However, Self-esteem and the Self have been part of the ongoing conversations in Psychology from almost the dawning of Psychology itself.  For James (1890) Self-esteem can be linked to our nature, can rise and fall as a function of achievement and set-backs and notably, not all successes and failures have the same effect on self-esteem. There can be a ‘State’ Self-esteem (one that fluctuates as a person ‘feels’ about themselves) and also a ‘Trait’ self-esteem – almost like a ‘resting pulse’ its the normative state, but how such a resting state of self-esteem exists is open to debate.  There is an element of cognition required for self-esteem, for it depends on the person in their ‘mind’ to interpret themselves in light of the events to then make assessments of themselves, against the situations. One of the functions of self-esteem which is valuable to youth workers is how self-esteem helps a person to achieve their goals, to indicate self-determination and also maybe realise dominance over others. Self-esteem that fluctuates is highly linked to contingencies of self-worth  (CSW) – which have been researched, albeit in America by student samples, to include things like appearance, others approval, competitiveness, academic competency, love and support of family, virtues and also relationship with God (again, American students) – this study was done in 2001, and was with a predominately white student population. But Some of these CSW are important to reflect on as these can be filters to look through ‘life goals’ through, as well as be motivations in themselves.

So, enough with the definitions, the thing that caught my eye was from one of the presentations by a colleague…

In an academic paper which had brought together a large number of data regarding the changes of Self esteem along the lifespan, Robins and Trzesenski in 2002 produced the following graph that makes a stab at trying to bring a uniformity to the conversations about self esteem as it changes through the ages.

I have taken a photo of it, and so the quality isnt great, and im aware that you might not be able to access the paper without permissions, but here it is.

From left to right is the age of people from 9-12, 13-17, 18-22 and right the way through to 80-90. The scale is based on an accumulation of data sets from a large range of previous papers. The data sets are the shapes, and a trend line is plotted through them.

Yes there are caveats with taking data from a cumulation of other samples.

But as a youthworkers, this is interesting isnt it?  How the level of self esteem changes through the ages.  There are reasons why it changes, and changes dramatically at certain points, they’re sort of obvious (linked to the description above)

We need to recognise a ‘change’ in self-esteem – but is it actually a ‘low one’? 

Of course, because everyone is different, making comparisons between young people might cause us, teachers or others to compare levels of self-esteem. But what is noticeable (aside from the distinction between males and females) , is not that young people have ‘low’ self-esteem – it is that there is such as significant change  in self esteem, for virtually all young people.

What we need to do, as youthworkers is to be aware of a ‘change’ in self-esteem levels with young people, that might feel like ‘low’ self-esteem. 

Actually – by telling a young person they ‘have low self-esteem’ is hardly going to make them feel better about themselves anyway is it?  The only thing this might do, is increase the propensity that our work as a youthworker or programme might have to be heroic to increase it. The reality is that it is far more complicated.

Maybe as youthworkers and youth practitioners it is more helpful to talk about a drop, or a change in a young persons self esteem -caused by the cognitive capacity increasing to consider themselves in respect to the CSW’s above ( ie “am i good looking, am i successful, am i important”) and do against their goals of being important, successful or attractive.

The graph is interesting though on a number of levels.

Yes there is a drop at 13-17- but it is hardly low. And the lowest point for many young people isnt 13-17, its 19 – when they leave home, and go to university. Especially indicated and ‘support or love of family’ is important, as recognised in the student surveys. In what way then, might youth workers who work with 15-year-olds help them to prepare for being 19 and this shift. And, as student life kicks in in regard to alcohol, socialising and being away from home, what strategies might there be to help them to cope in that time, learned from when they were 13…?

The reality is, then that may 15 year olds, probably have on average about the same level of self-esteem as many youthworkers- aged between 25-40. And its probably higher if that youth worker is worried about job security, is away from home, is overworked and stressed or their goals arent being realised.  There is a case for 50-60 year old youthworkers, those who have high self esteem and might have better capacity and confidence to help others. When 30 year olds are still ‘trying to make it…’

Maybe we should forget ‘low self-esteem’ and reflect on ‘changing’ self-esteem in people, not just young people, though young people often get tarnished as having ‘low self-esteem’ the easiest. It might not be the case… and either way its not helpful.

Just a few thoughts on Young people and self-esteem i thought were quite useful and worth sharing, it is such an important aspect of a young person and how they construct a view of themselves, and us, their parents and others, so reflecting further on self-esteem might be important in that changing positive relationship we have with them.

Id love to know your thought – and please let me know if this is helpful, especially in work relating to young people and mental health, in terms of young people as leaders, school achievement, alternative provision or mentoring type situations.


Self-Esteem Development across the Lifespan Author(s): Richard W. Robins and Kali H. Trzesniewski Source: Current Directions in Psychological Science, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Jun., 2005), pp. 158-162 Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. on behalf of Association for Psychological Science Stable URL: Accessed: 15-02-2017 18:52 UTC

James (1890) The Principles of Psychology