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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Our Children's Future Must Not Become a Victim of Coronavirus

Thursday, 28 January 2021

I want to start my blog today with some great news about the progress of the vaccine rollout in Tameside. Our latest figures show that almost 30,000 people have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine across Tameside and Glossop. This includes approximately 90% of our over-80s priority group and all adult care home staff and residents. We also expect that, if vaccine supplies continue to be delivered to us smoothly, we will have given all housebound over-70s their first jab by the end of the month. I am immensely proud of the tireless efforts of our key workers and council officers as they continue to protect our communities and save lives across the borough.

As I’ve said in this blog previously, as we begin to move into the next stage of the pandemic and the vaccination process we need to start giving serious thought to how we build back better and fairer. For understandable reasons, much of the attention during the past ten months has been focused on protecting the elderly and vulnerable in society from the worst consequences of the virus, including severe illness and death. However it is now clear that this pandemic will have a dreadful impact on the future of our young people as well. In the past couple of weeks some very concerning new research has been released to show exactly what this means.

The first alarm bell is from the Office for National Statistics, whose latest figures on employment show that young people between the ages of 25-34 have been made redundant at a rate of 16.2 per 1,000. This is higher than the average across all age groups of 14.2 and a five-fold increase since this time last year. The pandemic has also disproportionately hit sectors such as hospitality and leisure where more young people are likely to be employed. Even if those young people who are made redundant find new jobs the damage may already have been done, as we know from bitter experience that youth unemployment has a significant “scarring effect” that can lead to lower pay and more unemployment for decades afterwards. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the coronavirus pandemic has also had a significant and worrying impact on young people’s mental health as well. For the past 12 years The Prince’s Trust has run the Youth Index, an annual survey of the happiness and confidence of young people aged 16-25. This year’s Youth Index has returned the worst results in its history, with some of the headlines being that 50% of young people reported that their mental health has worsened since the beginning of the pandemic, and 25% admitted that they felt “unable to cope with life”. 56% of those surveyed also said that they “always or often feel anxious”, and 38% are “dreading the year ahead”.

There are a number of actions that I believe we can take right now to address this grim new reality. In Tameside we have invested heavily over the past few years in education and skills through the Vision Tameside project, giving young people the resources and facilities they need to help them make the best possible start in life. We also run a variety of mental health services through The Hive, our mental health and wellbeing hub, as well as partner organisations such as Tameside, Oldham and Glossop Mind. But we need to see action at a national level as well. This would include the immediate dropping of plans to cut Universal Credit by £20 a week, preventing young people who have been made redundant during the pandemic falling into outright destitution. I would also like to see more ambition to transform the Kickstart Scheme, which was established to help employers create job placements for young people, into a full-blown jobs guarantee that provides high quality employment and training, providing those who need it the most with a real living wage and genuine prospects for career advancement. 

The warning signs are clear. If serious and decisive action isn’t taken now the impact of coronavirus on young people will last for far longer, and may be even more damaging, than the pandemic itself. It is not an exaggeration to say that we run the risk of shattering the future of an entire generation. Our children deserve better, and it’s down to us to make sure it happens.


Posted by: Executive Leader

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