The Peer Action Collective (PAC) today publishes its report into youth experiences of violence. ‘Leading research, driving change’ is based on insights from 4,608 children and young people aged 10 to 20 in England and Wales.
Among these are shocking reflections. Rowan, from Devon, said: “You expect youth violence to be in dark alleyways and it’s not. These are children being attacked in broad daylight in a city centre”. Londoner Aidan commented: “I feel that [youth violence] is an experience that everyone has had, is having, or will have. And yeah, I really feel like it’s inevitable.”
What matters most
This important research was funded by the Youth Endowment Fund, the #iwill Fund (a joint investment between The National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) and the Co-op Group. It was led by 120 Peer Researchers, aged 16 to 25, who were trained and supported by The Young Foundation and local Delivery Partners.
These young people went out into their communities, listened to their peers, and identified the issues that matter most to them. The Peer Researchers found young people worried that social deprivation, compounded by the cost-of-living crisis, will negatively impact their safety and employment prospects.
One Peer Researcher from the East of England said: “Us young people are shut out so often, and this project has provided us with space to speak up. Not only do we help facilitate what other young people want, we can share our ideas and put them into action. We can make changes to the issues that are really impacting us; issues that people in power seem out of touch with.”
A plan for change
At a House of Commons event this afternoon, 20 young people will share the research findings with MPs, Ministers and senior stakeholders from the business and charity sectors. They will reveal eight areas where young people want support to make their communities safer and fairer:
- ‘We want you to deal with the small stuff.’ Young people want to see ‘low level’ bullying and homophobic, racist and sexist remarks addressed, both online and in-person.
- ‘We need access to and knowledge of opportunities.’ The cost-of-living crisis has only increased the urgency of needing access to meaningful employment.
- ‘More youth-friendly spaces would contribute to how safe we feel.’ Young people need more places to go where they are not competing for space and are supported by adults they trust.
- ‘Schools need to feel like safe spaces and should help prevent violence.’ Young people want their education system to help build a more tolerant society and prevent violence.
- ‘Mental health support should be easy to access.’ Young people need access to mental health services that are responsive and offer early intervention.
- ‘Young people should feel safe on social media.’ Young people want to feel safe and protected online, especially on social media. They want to know they can report inappropriate content and it will be managed appropriately and quickly.
- ‘We need you to consider the inequalities and lived experiences of young people to find solutions to youth violence.’ Young people’s identities shape the way they experience youth violence and inequalities must be recognised when working to reduce it.
- ‘Young people should be partners in developing solutions to change.’ Engagement needs to be genuine, with a commitment to implementing change.
Time to listen and take action
Reflecting on this important research, Helen Goulden OBE, Chief Executive at The Young Foundation said:
“We are proud to have co-delivered this important work. The deeply participatory approach of PAC has uncovered an incredible range of young people’s stories, experiences, and perspectives of serious violence. While these can be incredibly hard to hear, we must listen and take action. They are crucial in shaping a safer, fairer future for young people.”
The Youth Endowment Fund, Co-op, and the #iwill Fund will now invest a further £7.5m to see PAC deliver youth-led research and social action projects for another five years. The goal is to positively impact the lives of more than 11,000 young people in England and Wales, to help them access opportunities and live a life free from violence.
Peter Babudu, Assistant Director of Research and Youth Understanding at the Youth Endowment Fund said:
“PAC has demonstrated that there’s a real appetite from young people to be the change they want to see in the world. Some fantastic youth-led initiatives have been born out of the peer research. The continuation of PAC will give even more young people the opportunity to be at the forefront of making change happen in their communities”