Today is the last day of the Guardian and Observer’s 2020 charity appeal supporting disadvantaged young people hit by the pandemic crisis. An incredible £1,291,000 has so far been raised for our three organisations, and more than 13,500 readers have donated. Before the campaign closes at midnight tonight we want to reflect on why the campaign was so vitally needed, and so timely.
Each of us – YoungMinds, UK Youth and Child Poverty Action Group – have seen at close hand how challenging the pandemic has been for children and young people in the UK. As the Guardian’s editor-in-chief Katharine Viner wrote when she launched the appeal, this has been a time of “uncertainty and lives interrupted”. We have been working hard to support young people through it.
But life for many youngsters was difficult before Covid-19. As we begin to see light at the end of the tunnel of this public health and financial crisis with the arrival of vaccines, we must come together with ambition and hope for a better future for all our children and young people. The pandemic has caused fear and misery for many – and exposed the inequalities in this country for everyone to see.
The number of young people presenting at A&E with urgent mental health needs has tripled in the last 10 years, a quarter of young women have a diagnosable mental health problem and suicide is the single biggest killer of boys and young men.
Early access to the right support can make all the difference, but we know services vary across the country and too many young people end up in crisis before they get the help they need.
The youth sector has suffered year-on-year funding cuts of nearly £6bn. We know that when services are in place for many young people their youth worker is the only person they openly talk to, and their youth club is the only safe space they feel they have to be heard and to explore their character on their own terms.
Child poverty has been rising, with nine children in a typical classroom of 30 now living in poverty as a result of the rising cost of living, low pay and huge cuts to support from our social security system. This is where we were before the pandemic. The long-term effects of the crisis will become clearer in time, and we will be there to support young people and families as best we can.
It has been a devastating year – and we are all very concerned about what comes next. We are campaigning to ensure that early support is there for children and young people as they deal with the trauma they have experienced this year, and the mental health challenges that lie ahead. We are fighting for youth services that support young people out of the crisis. We are pushing for a comprehensive approach to ending child poverty for good so that children are not left out and left behind.
Just as news of effective vaccines has brought hope of an end to the pandemic, we have hope for our children and young people. We believe in children having good childhoods because childhood is important, no matter what is going on in the world. We believe in the UK’s 11 million young people: they are a fifth of the population and represent our future.
We call on the government to put young people at the heart of the recovery, so that when life stops being interrupted by the pandemic all children and young people can thrive – with enough support for their mental health, properly funded and coordinated youth services all can access, and freedom from the restrictions of poverty.
We are delighted that the Guardian and the Observer chose to put young people at the heart of their 2020 appeal, and we are pleased that they have identified the need for this focus and that readers have responded so generously. On behalf of all the people we support, and who will benefit from that generosity, we offer our heartfelt thanks: your kindness will make a real difference to the lives of young people.
Last chance to donate
The Guardian and Observer appeal ends at midnight on Sunday 10 January. It will support three charities that make a practical difference to the lives of young people:
UK Youth, YoungMinds, and the Child Poverty Action Group.
Due to Covid-19, we are unable to accept cheques this year, but there
are three easy ways to donate:
By phone: Call us on 0151 284 1126 and we can take your payment over the phone.
Your donations will be processed by Charities Trust (registered charity number 327489) who will deduct 3% of all funds raised (including on gift aid) to cover handling and transaction costs.