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CEO blog: How the cost-of-living crisis is impacting young people

4th August 2022 by Kathryn Morley, Chief Executive, OnSide

A poll by the BBC on the cost-of-living crisis showed that over half of parents say they are cutting back on activities for their children. Parents and carers are making difficult choices, but the reality is we know this isn’t a new issue. We know that things have always been challenging for lots of communities. The current crisis is only making things harder for families living in poverty and on low incomes.

Children as young as eight are telling youth workers that they’re worried about how their parents will pay the bills. Older members have said they would have cereal for their dinner without the Youth Zone’s £1 nutritious hot meals.

It’s such an uncertain time, and many young people and their families fear what’s to come. No youth centre will be a solution to the current crisis, it is a team effort between local authorities, local businesses, schools and many more.

I believe that youth centres have a role to play and can support in three ways; providing emotional care, offering affordable activities, and giving practical support where they can. A place children and young people can access a caring and listening ear and respite from the worries they carry at home. Where they can enjoy being kids, have fun and make friends.

We have always sought to ensure cost is never a barrier to young people accessing high-quality youth work and facilities through our Youth Zones. They are at an accessible price of £5 membership and 50p per visit. All Youth Zones provide free membership or free entry for those that can’t stretch to this. We want every young person to be able to attend a Youth Zone despite financial pressures at home.

The summer holiday is a time of extra pressure for many families. The worry of keeping young people occupied and safe and the financial strain. It’s essential that families have access to affordable activities and childcare for young people. To support low-income families, youth providers across the country are offering free holiday club spaces as part of the Government’s Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme.

This year, as we react to the growing cost-of-living crisis, in addition to free holiday club places through HAF for junior members, Youth Zones are grateful to have funding from Ajaz Ahmed MBE, through his foundation Ajaz.org, enabling us to extend our support to young people over 13. Those eligible get free entry and a free meal at all Youth Zones, with around 8,500 places available throughout the summer.

Beyond the holiday clubs, Youth Zones are helping members and their families wherever possible. Carlisle Youth Zone has a food collection service for parents and carers. HideOut in East Manchester is educating young people on how to prepare budget-friendly, healthy meals to feed a family. Unitas in Barnet is supporting parents and carers over the summer by offering health and wellbeing activities like yoga. They’re also hosting the Job Centre so parents and carers can access support and advice.

Now more than ever, young people need access to affordable activities. We’re committed to ensuring this is possible for more communities nationwide.