A new report on young people’s health in response to COVID-19

The fall-out from the crisis on school exam results has created a crisis of confidence for many young people, uncertain of their future. Its impact is far-reaching and has compounded existing inequalities made worse by COVID-19. A new report, ‘Inside Out’, published today, highlights a rise in mental health issues among young people and provides clear evidence on the disproportionate impact the pandemic has on young people’s health.

The result is that young people, while at lower risk from infection by COVID-19, are put at much greater risk of other physical or mental health issues. Therefore the National Youth Agency (NYA) and young people’s health charity Brook have joined the Children’s Commissioner for England to call for:

  1. Clear and ongoing public health messages specific to young people
  2. Keeping services for young people open with ready access where it is safe to do so
  3. Mobilising youth workers as critical workers alongside health and education professionals

At the report’s launch Leigh Middleton, NYA CEO said:

The government’s focus is on a full return to school and college from September and initiatives for young people to ‘catch up’ on their education. However, there is a real danger that we lose sight of the immediate needs and long term impact on young people’s health, which in turn is a key determinant of their education, employment and life chances.

Through youth work, support can be offered to young people as part of a joined-up approach with schools and colleges and health specialists. It is vital they come together seamlessly to make sure young people have the help they need to recover, make sound choices and get ahead in life.

Helen Marshall, Brook Chief Executive said:

While Brook’s clinical services adapted to the constraints of lockdown and remained open and available to young people throughout, the majority of sexual health services across the country closed, limiting young people’s access to sexual health advice and support. The closure of schools, colleges and youth services has further isolated young people at a period in their lives that is crucial for their emotional and physical development.

For this generation to flourish and fulfil their potential it is vital that their needs are not forgotten in our collective response to COVID-19.

Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, added:

Children and young people need to be at the heart of coronavirus planning as they prepare to return to school in September and over coming months. Their perspectives must be better reflected in scientific and public health advice. Helping young people adapt to living safely with the virus will be essential to their long term prospects and health and wellbeing.

The crisis has hit vulnerable young people the hardest. It is essential that the right services are there to support them. The report, ‘Inside Out’, reveals young people’s health has suffered with:

  • A decline in vulnerable young people’s mental health almost three times the national average in response to COVID-19.
  • Over one million young people have been lost to youth services during COVID-19, many unknown to formal services and not accessing health services.
  • The loss of wrap around support and access to age appropriate health services with the closure of some smaller clinical services, walk-in clinics and youth centres.
  • The lack of group activities in schools and youth services, made worse by the closure of summer schemes, restrictions on leisure and outdoor activities, including local parks.
  • The lack of clear guidance for young people from trusted sources can lead to risky behaviour, poor sexual health, abuse, trauma, bereavement, addiction and anxiety.
  • The considerable strain this places on health services, already over-stretched, and an over reliance on online services for health advice and support.

In response NYA and Brook have launched a joint 10-point plan for young people’s health in response to COVID-19, and have called for greater investment in early intervention, therapeutic and open-access services for young people.

See copy of the full report Inside Out

For further information and media enquiries, contact: Jonathan Hopkins – JonathanH@nya.org.uk

Notes for the Editor:

  • NYA is the national body for youth work in England (Professional, Statutory & Regulatory Body). See nya.org.uk
  • Brook is the only national charity offering clinical, education and wellbeing services for young people. See brook.org.uk
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