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Youth Select Committee calls for Government action to support young people through the cost of living crisis

6 March 2024

Palace of Westminster with Wesminster Bridge at sunset

The Youth Select Committee have launched their report investigating the cost of living’s impact on young people's health and wellbeing.

Following a call for written evidence, the Committee heard from a range of witnesses on the 15th  and 22nd  September 2023 – including youth organisations, government departments and the charity sector.

Like House of Commons Select Committees, the Youth Select Committee heard evidence from inside a Committee Room in Parliament - which is normally reserved for MPs - and their report will now be sent to the Government for an official response.

The Committee’s findings

The report was launched by members of the Committee at a reception in the House of On Wednesday 6th March. The Committee’s key findings and recommendations include:

  • Many young people feel excluded from the policy-making processes that directly have an impact on their lives. While there are instances of successful models in other legislatures where young people actively engage with policy-makers, opportunities remain scarce for direct engagement with national policy at both an official and ministerial level. The Government should provide more opportunities for young people to feed into policy decisions that affect them, including engagement with officials and ministers.
  • The high cost of living is negatively affecting young people’s ability to secure stable jobs, with lower wages preventing young people from applying to certain roles. The Government should equalise wages for all workers of legal adult age, so young people under 23 years old do not receive a lower Minimum Wage
  • The current eligibility criteria for free school meals does not capture all of those in need, instead resulting in a “postcode lottery”. The Government should ring-fence funding for free school meals to enable consistent provision, as well as expanding the eligibility to include the c.900,000 young people who are currently living in food poverty but do not meet the criteria.
  • The Committee support calls from witnesses and campaigners for the introduction of an Essentials Guarantee within Universal Credit to ensure that the basic rate covers life's essentials, including food and bills. The Government should implement this measure and ensure it is extended to eligible young people under 25.
  • Demand for youth mental health services has surged in recent years, yet prolonged waiting times for NHS support and limited access to CAMHS in schools and colleges has left many young people struggling alone. The Government should require schools to have a mental health policy, as well as permanent staff dedicated to student’s mental health.
  • Young people from marginalised communities, but particularly those from minority ethnic and disabled backgrounds, are disproportionately affected by the cost of living, which has impeded their access to education and job opportunities. The Government should commission further research into this area, and work with local authorities to provide specific help for improving access to education and employment.

Dev Sharma, Chair of the Youth Select Committee, said:

“The Youth Select Committee are concerned at how far reaching the impact of the cost of living crisis has been on young people’s lives.

“From job prospects to accessing affordable nutritious food and sufficient mental health services, my generation is grappling with multifaceted challenges as a direct result of growing financial insecurity. Our experiences, struggles, and aspirations must inform policies that directly impact our lives. Our perspectives are not just valuable; they are essential for crafting a more inclusive and equitable future for all.”

The Youth Select Committee gives young people the opportunity to scrutinise and hold inquiries into topics that matter to them. The inquiry was preceded by a nationwide ballot of over half a million young people, who declared the cost of living crisis as their biggest concern.

The Youth Select Committee is an initiative led by the British Youth Council and supported by the House of Commons. The twelve committee members are aged 14-19 and include representatives from young people involved in various programmes and groups across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For more information, visit the British Youth Council website.