Loading

When Covid-19 hit the UK, The Prince's Trust launched its Young People Action Plan to keep the hopes of a generation alive.

Before Covid-19, we already had reason to be concerned about the wellbeing and prosperity of young people. Overall, the pace of generational growth in household income - widely taken as a benchmark of day-to-day living standards - has slowed. The present crisis has only intensified the uncertainty many young people feel about their future prospects, on top of the many anxieties we can experience growing up.

From March 2020, as schools closed and support services became increasingly difficult to access, the wellbeing of young people declined. In our 2021 Prince's Trust Youth Index, one in four young people (26 per cent) admit they feel "unable to cope with life" since the start of the pandemic, increasing to 40 per cent among those not in work, education or training (NEETs). Half of 16 to 25-year-olds (50 per cent) say their mental health has worsened since the start of the pandemic. Millions had their educations disrupted and were forced to isolate, with a profound impact on the lives and livelihoods of young people.

Headlines of Britain's deepest recession since records began give us all cause for concern, but young people at the start of their working lives are shouldering a particularly heavy cost:

  • Youth unemployment in the UK has increased to 14.6%, up from 11.8% at the start of 2020
  • The number of young people in employment has fallen by 306,000, an 8% decrease
  • 281,000 new young people have claimed Universal Credit since March, an increase of 120%
  • Over half of young workers have lost a job or been furloughed since the crisis began

Aside from the immediate financial pressures, unemployment in early working life leaves a scar that can last a lifetime. Young people affected are more likely to be out of work in later life, to be in poor-quality work, and to have lower earnings decades later.

For all these reasons, we launched our Young People Action Plan; to protect young people from a spiral of unemployment and poor-quality work, to ensure the sustainability of jobs, and to give all young people a stake in our society. Covid-19 accelerated our mission to address social mobility and tackle the entrenched challenges that many thousands of young people face.

With your support, we are already having a huge impact on their lives.

Our Response

At the outset of the pandemic, it quickly became clear that we would need to close our centres and suspend face-to-face youth work to ensure the safety of our young people and staff. Undeterred, our youth workers quickly pivoted our programmes online to maintain a strong system of support for those in need.

The scale of the challenge was vast: young people needed our help more than ever, but at the same time, The Prince's Trust faced a significant funding shortfall. During the financial crisis of 2008/09 - a time when one in five young people were unemployed - we responded by tightening our belt while growing our work for those most in need. This time, we did the same again.

Our youth workers rapidly adapted our programmes to the current climate, taking those that worked in a digital format, such as the Enterprise programme and short Get Started courses, online. Our youth-workers also innovated new forms of support for young people on the margins of society, providing wellbeing check-ins and 1:1 phone support and hosting digital classrooms to help those who had lost work re-skill for new industries.

Our online presence significantly increased - particularly on sites like Instagram and TikTok - to let young people know that we were there for them. We strengthened our partnerships with other charities in order to signpost young people facing mental health crises, homelessness or poverty to a critical range of support services. Meanwhile, our own youth-workers received refresher training in mental health first aid, and our contact hours extended into the evenings and weekends to be there for young people whenever they needed support.

The Young People Action Plan

To respond to the unique challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic, The Prince's Trust launched the Young People Action Plan: six areas through which we could support young people to survive the crisis in the short-term, and thrive as active members of society in the long-term.

Our youth workers and volunteers worked tirelessly in the early months of the pandemic to create a strong support system for any young person in need of our help.

Wellbeing & Online Mentoring

In the early days of the pandemic, thousands of young people found themselves having to isolate in unstable, and sometimes unsafe, homes. Our youth-workers quickly created digital wellbeing sessions and conducted one-to-one support with thousands of young people online and over the phone to help them navigate any difficulties they were facing in life. For many young people, our youth workers were one of their only contacts during the early months of the crisis.

Mentoring will always be a core part of The Prince's Trust's provision and, as the months have gone on and society has started to reopen, we have continued our one-to-one support through programmes such as Explore - our long-term personal development programme for the most vulnerable young people. By taking the programme online, we have been able to reach new demographics of young people who need our help, including in and outpatients of mental health wards.

We have also run hundreds of short courses to help young people explore new talents, engage with their peers and find an outlet for their feelings and emotions. From arts-based courses in spoken word, visual art, film, music and photography, to active courses themed around boxing, fitness or dance choreography, our short 'Get Started' courses have been a lifeline for isolated young people and a crucial first engagement with The Trust's services.

“Taking the Explore programme online has been a game-changer for so many young people during the lockdowns. It’s hard to understand just how isolated some of these individuals are. But through these programmes they've made genuine friendships and you can see the group’s confidence growing by the number of young people who start to switch their cameras on as the days go by. It’s brilliant to see.”

Maureen Moores, Prince's Trust Youth Worker

Real Lives: Zipporah's Story

Zipporah didn't have an easy start in life. She was born with a brain tumour which continues to affect her health to this day. Zipporah is also autistic and finds it difficult to negotiate social settings. Even before Covid-19, she was isolated and disconnected from her peers.

During the pandemic, Zipporah and her family were made temporarily homeless and were forced to move into a hotel where they had to self-isolate. Zipporah, who was also facing a flair-up of her illness, felt hugely vulnerable and wasn't sure where to turn.

By chance, she saw an advertisement for The Prince's Trust's Get Started with Spoken Word programme online and decided to push herself to take part. She wanted an outlet to express herself, and felt like this might be the perfect opportunity.

Zipporah threw herself into the programme, using poetry to open up about her anxieties and to dream of a better future. She wrote prolifically, encouraged by her youth worker, and by the end of the programme performed her poems live on The Trust's Instagram channel.

Zipporah emerged from the programme as a more confident individual who has realised a real talent for writing. She's currently working with The Trust on a 12-week employability programme to find work that will suit her needs - although, in the long term, she would love to see her own poetry in print.

While on the programme, Zipporah received the unsettling news that her tumours had slowly started to increase in size. She remains upbeat and uses her one-to-ones with her Youth Worker to energise herself to achieve as much as her health will allow.

Employability Support

Over half of 16-24 year-olds have lost work or been furloughed as a result of the coronavirus crisis. For young people at the start of their working lives, the jobs market is incredibly difficult with a reduced number of vacancies, increased competition, and entry-level roles in sectors like hospitality, retail and leisure fast-disappearing. Throughout the crisis, The Prince's Trust has been delivering specialist employability support and work experience programmes to help young people re-train if they have lost work, or to find their first job altogether.

With your support, in the early months of the pandemic, we quickly established digital classrooms to develop unemployed young people's skills at interviewing, application writing and CV writing. These employability programmes, combined with one-to-one mentor support, enabled many young people who were struggling to make ends meet to find work in key industries. Our digital Jobs Board connected Prince's Trust young people with live vacancies to provide immediate security to those affected by the crisis.

Working in partnership with some of the UK's biggest employers, we also created online programmes to help young people develop their skills for industries most likely to weather the next few years. Young people have taken part in programmes in data engineering, digital marketing, technology, security, product design, security, media, transport, retail and construction, working alongside partners such as Amazon Web Services, Google, BAE Systems, Triforce, Marks and Spencer, Tesco and the NHS.

Real Lives: Ashley's Story

Ashley, 22, has always been passionate about the railway and dreamed of finding employment with South Western Railway. He worked hard and, despite finding learning new things difficult, he flourished.

Ashley had applied for lots of jobs in the railway industry, but struggled with the interview process. He knew he had so many skills that just needed fine tuning, so decided to get in touch with The Prince's Trust.

During his time with The Trust, Ashley was motivated to improve his employability skills and gain further knowledge and experience with the railway. He had a clear goal and worked hard to arrange a two-week work placement with the railway using The Trust's contacts and previous knowledge. He also improved his teamworking skills, taking each activity in his stride and confidently working well as part of the team.

For his work placement, Ashley worked part-time as a Gate Line Assistant, which involved assisting passengers, making train announcements and improving his already impressive knowledge of how the railways worked. These skills helped him on the rest of his programme too, as he influenced others with his professionalism and hard work.

At the end of the programme, Ashley was offered a position with South Western Railway as a Gate Line Assistant – a dream come true. He has made the most of the opportunity and is an inspirational employee. He worked hard to achieve his goal of working on the railway, and now Ashley has the job he has dreamed of. He will continue to excel and work hard during his career with the railway.

It has always been a dream of mine to work with the railway. I knew I would stop at nothing until that dream was achieved, and I’m so proud of myself now.

Self-Employment

The immediate crisis has hit young people hard - we are already seeing that they are the most likely to be out of work – but the long-term impact is set to be even harder. For aspiring young entrepreneurs, it is a doubly challenging time. With SMEs facing the greatest risk of failure, young founders are feeling more vulnerable than ever before.

At the same time, we know that young people are critical to the speed and strength of the UK’s recovery from Covid-19. The Prince’s Trust has seen a huge surge in demand for support from aspiring young entrepreneurs since the start of the lockdown. Whether young people are considering entrepreneurship for the first time after losing their job or finishing school, or they have started a business and need support to continue trading, we want to aid these talented individuals to rebuild our economy and their own futures.

Covid-19 changed the face of our Enterprise programme. We quickly took the programme online, and our new virtual model has enabled us to reach young people who might previously have missed out on support, including those unable to leave the house or living in rural areas. Going forward, we want to build on the innovations of the past months with a blended face-to-face and digital offer. We are already running a limited number of face-to-face programmes for young entrepreneurs who struggle with digital connectivity, and for neurodiverse young people who struggle to engage with our online courses.

Additionally, our Enterprise Relief Fund has provided grants to self-employed young people who are struggling to navigate the difficult trading conditions caused by the pandemic. We have now distributed over £3.3million of grants to maintain core business operations during the crisis and support young people to diversify their products in response to the pandemic.

Real Lives: Atlanta's Story

Atlanta Campbell, 23 years-old from Birmingham, made it her mission to set up a business supporting vulnerable adults. She realised this dream when she established her business, AC Assistance, which provides supported accommodation to vulnerable individuals, along with the assistance needed to reach their own personal goals and aspirations.

With advice from her Prince’s Trust mentor, other partners and support from her parents, Atlanta is now offering structured support and quality accommodation to vulnerable adults dealing with substance abuse, mental health issues, previous offences, and relationship breakdowns. With the aim of making the support process as simple as possible for service users, Atlanta is building an organisation that has the wellbeing of its clients at its heart.

Atlanta had a difficult relationship with her parents growing up. Through family mediation, it was agreed that moving out of the family home and into supported accommodation would be the best option for Atlanta at that time. With the help of her social worker she found support through St Basil’s, where she was able to find somewhere to stay.

After almost a year away from her parents, she started to re-build her relationship with them and get her education back on track. Atlanta successfully completed a Level 2 NVQ, a Higher National Diploma in Health and Social Care.

Atlanta’s own experience of being homeless, as well as her work within the supported housing sector, gave her an insight into the difficulties that come with being homeless and the challenges of trying to navigate the housing system. Despite all this lived experience, Atlanta needed training, guidance, and support to set up a business and so she approached The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme.

Through support and mentorship, Atlanta was able to establish a space to welcome four people into supported accommodation and has ambitions to develop a property portfolio to open further residential services across the West Midlands.

During the pandemic, Altanta applied for additional funding from The Prince’s Trust and was successful. This enabled her to buy additional PPE and upgrade her property to ensure the safety of her clients and staff.

Atlanta’s relationship with her parents is now back on track and they are proud of her achievements.

Education

Education can make the biggest difference to a young person’s chances in life, but Covid-19 has disrupted the educations of millions of students at critical junctures. Tens of thousands of young people leave school without qualifications each year. Now, thousands more are at risk of slipping through the cracks as young people struggle to get back on track at school and the attainment gap widens. Our programmes bring a youth work approach into schools by training teachers to run inspirational learning clubs and creating ‘out of the classroom’ experiences to educate young people about the world of work.

During the lockdown, The Prince’s Trust played a vital role in helping schools, educators, and parents to keep young people motivated in their studies from home. To combat school closures, we launched our Coronavirus Support Hub – an online treasure-trove of inspirational masterclasses and online learning resources to help young people engage with their long-term ambitions. We also provided hundreds of young people with laptops, dongles, and data to ensure they could access the internet. It is estimated that up to 60,000 teenagers do not have any form of internet connectivity at home, while 700,000 do not have a computer. Our Development Awards were a crucial tool to keep young people learning during the pandemic.

At a time when education has been disrupted on an unprecedented scale, our early-intervention work is more critical than ever to reengage vulnerable students as schools reopen. From September, hundreds of schools have resumed delivery of our early-intervention education programmes in order to supplement missed teaching time and help young people to sharpen their skills and think more ambitiously about their futures.

Real Lives: Rena's Story

Rena Johnson is an English teacher at the Lilian Baylis School in Lambeth. She's been delivering the Achieve programme on behalf of The Prince's Trust for two years.

"I have delivered The Prince's Trust's Achieve programme for two years, with this being the third academic year. It has benefited my students immensely as they have been able to discover skills, interests and talents that they would not have ordinarily had the opportunity to identify.

"It helps students who have special educational needs or who are disadvantaged in other ways; they often struggle with traditional academic subjects and have a reluctance to attend either specific lessons or school in general. In addition, they may have low self-esteem and strained relationships with staff and their peers.

"In previous years, my students have particularly enjoyed the external workshops such as visits to international law schools and in-house visits such as the STEM workshops. They have also enjoyed the simulated interviews in the Career Planning unit.

"Through the programme, I have seen students finally find a 'lesson' that they enjoy and look forward to. They have celebrated small achievements that would not be usually available to them in a full, formal class setting. Being able to make verbal contributions in a smaller informal setting has helped to alleviate anxiety.

"During the Covid-19 period, the workbooks provided by The Prince's Trust have been particularly useful for online learning and has been a welcome break for the students who have had to cope with some really challenging situations.”

Community

Despite the lockdown, Covid-19 brought many communities closer together than ever before. From the outset, so many young people told us they wanted to play their part to support the UK's relief effort. In response, we grew our youth community volunteering network to enable more young people who want to help their communities to do so responsibly and safely through our core programmes, including with school-groups, young people on our community-based programmes and with those looking for work in key industries.

The response was astounding: from young people volunteering within the NHS to keep the nation safe while gaining work experience, through to schools creating care-packages for members of their community who were self-isolating, our young people demonstrated the difference they could make when given an opportunity. Across the UK, we brought together teams of young people to lead on community projects, and saw an uptick in young people volunteering on our own programmes to pay back the opportunity they had received.

Real Lives: Emmanuel's Story

Emmanuel set up his own digital marketing business with the support of The Prince's Trust and is now a Young Ambassador. He is passionate about being a positive role model for young people, something he believes he lacked when he was growing up:

"I grew up in Stockwell, South London. I had a happy upbringing but was aware from a young age that there were very few role models for me and my peers to look up to. I’d always wanted to achieve great things, but there was a lot of madness in the area I grew up in. There wasn’t a lot for young people to do except get involved with gangs and violence. I had strict parents who kept me on the straight and narrow, but I was an observer of this negative culture and I saw the impact of violence in my community, with my friends at school becoming heavily involved.

"Even when you’re not involved, you can get caught up in things because of where you live. I’ve had knives pulled on me and seen people with weapons in my area.”

Determined not to follow the same path, Emmanuel got in touch with The Prince’s Trust for support in starting up his own digital marketing agency. It steadily grew and eventually Emmanuel was able to lease his own office-space and start employing a small team. When Covid-19 hit, Emmanuel's business was ineligible for government support. The Prince’s Trust provided him with an Enterprise Relief Fund grant to cover his core costs. Inspired by this, he decided to give something back and run a programme to help other young people find work in digital marketing.

10 young people from London took part in the week-long programme, which focused on how to design a marketing strategy and culminated in a practice pitch to employers on how they would market the brand to increase revenue. It was a great introduction to the sector, and an excellent opportunity for young people to access the support of a peer before applying for a job. Asha, one of the young people who took part, said:

“I really want to start a career in digital marketing but wanted to learn the basics first. This course has surpassed my expectations and I'm so grateful.”

Health and Social Care

This year, frontline workers within health and social care have become the nation's heroes. Even before the pandemic, the NHS was under immense pressure from an ageing population and huge numbers of vacancies within its workforce. Now, with the added pressure of a global pandemic, it is vital that we act to ensure its sustainability for years to come.

The Prince's Trust has worked with the NHS for over 10 years to support young people into roles across the health and social care sector. Last year, we set out a renewed partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care to support a further 10,000 young people to start their careers in the sector within the next four years. Your generosity has enabled us to kickstart this initiative, despite the difficult landscape for hospitals and care-settings.

Our programmes in hospitals and care-providers across the UK were underway when the pandemic hit in March. Undeterred by the challenge, many young people were offered roles with immediate starts to assist with the early response. While face-to-face work placement programmes were initially placed on pause for the safety of young people, we pivoted the programme online to engage young people with the sector and offer employability support for those who were ready to interview for live vacancies.

Now, a number of our face-to-face programmes have resumed with partners such as University Hospital Birmingham and the East Lancashire Hospital Trust, in recognition of the important role that young people have to play in our country's response to the pandemic.

Brooke is just one young person who has found a vocation for working in care with the help of The Prince's Trust. You can hear her story below:

Real Lives: Thomas's Story

"If you'd have told me before I got involved with The Prince's Trust that I'd land the job I'm in now, I wouldn't have believed you."

Thomas, aged 22, from Blackburn, was homeless at the age of 18 and realised that he was heading down a dangerous path in life.

"My teenage years were hard for me. I was misunderstood and never felt that I got the support I needed for my mental health and learning difficulties. I wasn't in education and things were tough, so I would find myself having arguments with my parents and ending up out on the streets.

"I knew I had to make a change, so I got in touch with a local homeless charity called who in turn told me about The Prince's Trust. Little did I know that with effort and hard work I would be in the position that I'm in today."

Thomas took part in The Trust's four-week Get into Hospital Services programme, run in partnership with the East Lancashire Hospital Trust, and worked within different departments at the Royal Blackburn. He gained valuable experience in the healthcare industry, alongside building his confidence and developing skills for job interviews.

"It was a whole new world entering the work environment, and I soon discovered that I enjoyed being part of a team, especially in the laundry department where it was quite a physically-demanding job."

Thomas took part in employability days as part of the programme, where he learnt about communication, teamwork, reliability and resilience.

"I worked really had during my placement and I was over the moon when I was offered work only two weeks into the programme. It meant so much and I've now progressed from part-time to full-time employment. I've even managed to move into a property with my girlfriend."

“My favourite part about work is doing something useful with myself every day. Some of my friends have been made redundant during the pandemic, and it’s helped me a lot this year to be kept occupied with my job.”

Covid-19 is still with us, and we're all adjusting to a new normal. But with an economic storm on the horizon that will hit young people particularly hard, we know that we cannot let up on our mission to help every young person live, learn and earn.

Looking Ahead

During the summer of 2020, we gradually started to re-open our centres across the UK and resume face-to-face delivery for young people in need of our help.

In July, we reopened our Manchester Centre, with Birmingham, London, Belfast and Glasgow also opening in the following months. Our centres provided young people with a safe environment in which to work on their personal development, often providing a neutral alternative to the chaotic home environments that they are living in.

Free from distractions, the centres provided those who did not have access to computers or the internet with an opportunity to stay connected online, train or work on job applications, as well as use key facilities such as washing machines and kitchens. We also experienced a high take-up of face-to-face support from neurodiverse young people who have struggled with online interventions.

Youth work is deemed as an essential service in the government's most recent guidance, and although current restrictions mean we have scaled back our in-person delivery considerably, we will continue to deliver a small number of face-to-face interventions for the most vulnerable young people.

We are in conversation with partners across the UK about how our centres can be used as a key youth hub for those affected by youth unemployment. We are exploring the possibility of bringing work coaches from the Job Centre and Department for Work and Pensions into the centre, as well as offering our facilities to grass-roots organisations whose spaces cannot facilitate social distancing measures. As restrictions continue in the UK, our facilities will be a key source of support for combatting the challenges arising out of the Covid-19 crisis began.

It is clear, however, that social distancing will play a big part in all our lives for some time to come, and we will continue to run the digital programmes innovated so rapidly by our teams at the beginning of the lockdown. By taking our programmes online, we have accessed new demographics of young people who might previously have missed out on our support. From those that live in rural areas of the UK, to young parents balancing the demands of family life, or those whose disabilities might make it hard to leave the house, our remote support is enabling them to develop the skills and confidence to find a job, re-skill or set up in business.

Thank You

Young people need our help more than ever, but none of it supporters like you who put their trust in us each day.

You have played a vital part in our efforts to help young people survive the challenges of today and strive for the opportunities of tomorrow. Collectively, we have raised over £1.8million through the Young People Relief Fund to support over 24,000 young people since April. As we continue to battle Covid-19 and all the challenges it brings, we are preparing to help thousands more, and can do so confidently knowing that you are behind us.

On behalf of every young person you have supported, thank you.