Bishop of Derby Column: Youngsters need our support to help shape the society of tomorrow
As Covid cut a deadly swathe through our communities last year, and particularly our care homes, it was understandable that our focus should be on protection and support for our elderly and most vulnerable, writes the Rt Rev Libby Lane.
Largely unaffected by the virus itself, it was easy to see our children sent home from school and enjoying the glorious spring sunshine and envy their apparently untroubled bliss.
As the weeks stretched into months of lockdown however, it became obvious it was far from blissful for many - stuck in a flat or small house with little access to outside space.
The closure of schools and social distancing rules denying them an education and contact with friends and family.
Schools and colleges across Derbyshire have worked tirelessly to ensure young people aren’t disadvantaged by the pandemic.
Adapting to teaching online, helping to bridge the digital divide and giving ongoing support to those families put under severe financial strain, has helped to reduce the anxiety caused to many children and young people.
As a member of the House of Lords Select Committee on Youth Unemployment, I am passionate about ensuring our young people have the opportunity to develop the skills and experience they need.
Too many of our youngsters are not in education, employment or training and are amongst the most vulnerable and hardest to reach in our society.
Let’s take as an example the hospitality and retail sector: for many young people this is where they first experience the world of work and gain confidence in their own abilities as they move from education and training into employment.
These sectors are amongst the hardest hit by the regulations and restrictions of the past year. This is one of the reasons why unemployment has disproportionately hit young people during the pandemic.
The launch of job introduction schemes like Kickstart and the apprenticeship incentive bonus payment have helped some, and are valuable to both individuals and businesses but we need to do more.
In recent years, technology and social media have created new ways for adults and young people to learn from each other. All ages in our communities need one another to prosper and build the good society.
As a teenager, I benefited from opportunities to develop my skills through community volunteering, as well as part-time paid work. I was privileged to have a year-long supported placement after university at St Thomas’ Church, Brampton in Chesterfield, which prepared me for professional training as a minister in the Church of England.
Many churches are still working to support young people, not only by running youth groups and offering volunteering opportunities, but also in partnership with schools and colleges and businesses.
Right now, many of our young people are completing their final assessments at school, sixth form, college and university as they prepare to start a new chapter in their lives.
Providing the conditions in which they can flourish must be a priority.
A year ago, it was right that we rushed to support the elderly who have done so much to build the freedoms and prosperity we enjoy. Now, we must turn our attention and efforts to the generation that will shape the society of tomorrow. I urge you to consider how you can join me and play your part.