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Young people's future health inquiry Aiming to build the policy, research and place-based agenda to improve the future health of today’s young people

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Background

The Young People’s Future Health Inquiry took place between 2017 and 2024, and set out to understand the experiences that shape the lives of people aged 12 to 24, and how these experiences help or hinder their health outcomes as they transition to adulthood.  

The most recent phase of the Inquiry involved funding five policy posts across a range of organisations to build the policy agenda and amplify the voices of young people. All postholders focused on the building blocks of health, including young people’s employment, transport and economic security.

We also worked with NPC who were a learning and evaluation partner for the programme. They found that a key strength of the programme was the way in which it meaningfully engaged with young people. Based on this, they produced a toolkit on how to involve young people in policy work.  

Association for Young People’s Health

AYPH is an organisation that works to improve the health and wellbeing of 10 to 24-year-olds. Their policy post looked at the experiences and challenges faced by different groups of young people, such as with experience of care and from black and minority ethnic communities.

The post-holder worked with key organisations including NHS England to collect relevant data about young people’s health inequalities and launched the Youth Health Data Hub in 2022. The data shows the wider determinants that drive health inequalities, the way these affect young people and the resulting health outcomes.   

Consulting and engaging with a youth engagement panel, AYPH, in collaboration with the Race Equality Foundation, published two reports that explored the health inequalities experienced by young people from minority ethnic communities. These reports have helped to build the evidence base on this group’s experiences in different contexts, such as at school and in health care settings. 

Their most recent reports explore the views and experiences of care leavers about health, accessing health care services and health inequalities. Here you can find the youth engagement report and the data report

 

Resolution Foundation

The Resolution Foundation is an independent think tank focused on improving living standards for people on low to middle incomes. Their policy post analysed how poor-quality work impacts young people and the barriers they face in accessing high-quality work. The post aims to develop policy that can be used by a wide range of policymakers and other organisations to improve job quality and help prepare young people for good work.

The post-holder has explored the relationship between young people’s labour market conditions and mental health outcomes. The reports have drawn on a number of topics including the effects of the pandemic, experience in early adulthood, and risk and protective factors influencing young people’s labour market involvement. For example, Constrained choices explores the prevalence of part-time work among low-paid workers in the UK and draws upon findings from four focus groups.

The Resolution Foundation’s final report, We’ve only just begun looks at the links between young people’s mental health, education and employment. It explored the rise in mental health problems among young people in recent years, finding that these are particularly pronounced for non-graduates. 

 

Institute for Employment Studies

The IES is an international organisation that aims for a future where everyone has the opportunity of good quality, secure and meaningful work. Their policy post looked at a range of issues surrounding the type of work undertaken by young people, exploring how these are measured and understood, as well as developing policy solutions to improve the quality of work.  

IES has built local area partnerships with Career Wales, the Welsh Government and Somerset County Council. These are designed to support the development of coordinated and coherent responses to youth employment in those places, with the aim of developing better solutions for young people’s employment. IES used place-based collaborations learning from local areas and sharing insight from the research on partnerships and youth systems to influence practice on the ground and support efforts towards local systemic change. 

The post-holder carried out research through surveys and interviews with small, medium and large businesses. Their January 2023 report Bridging the gap explored employers’ views and experiences around hiring, working with and retaining young people, with a specific focus on views and practices around good quality work. This complements their previous report Not just any job, good jobs! which took a youth-centred approach, drawing upon young people’s experiences of good work. Their final output Young people’s mental health in the workplace explores the challenges young workers are facing when it comes to mental health and action needed to address these challenges.

 

Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce

The RSA in a world where everyone is able to participate in creating a better future. It undertakes research and delivers innovative new programmes to achieve this. 

The post-holder looked at how the economy, job market, and wider society have contributed to young people experiencing economic insecurity and financial volatility. Moreover, they explored how economic insecurity impacts young people’s transition to adulthood and ways that policy can help young people to become economically secure. 

The cost of independence report highlights the importance of economic security and its effects on young people and their future health and wellbeing. Its launch event raised awareness of economic security and was attended by academics, policymakers and policy influencers. 

Following on from this, the RSA’s Age of insecurity report uses the concept of ‘atomisation’– the breaking of societal bonds that should support young people – to explain the prevalence of economic insecurity in this cohort of young people. This phenomenon is used to explain experiences of low pay, high costs, and the general difficulty of navigating a system which makes financial independence difficult for young people today. Their final report, State of Paralysis, engaged extensively with young people to hear what they want from policy in the areas of education and employability, money, housing, transport and health. 

 

University of the West of England

The UWE has worked in collaboration with Sustrans to review evidence on the role of transport in supporting young people to develop and transition to an independent and healthy future.

The project built evidence and assessed policy initiatives to support policy and industry action. A panel of young volunteers and policy experts worked with the project, sharing their experiences and insights to guide project priorities. Getting transport right for young people has never been so important. 

One of this post’s major outputs was theFair Bus Fares for Young People policy briefing, launched in July 2022. The briefing provides an overview of young people’s needs for bus fare support, recent policy development and the bus fare schemes available to young people aged over 16 across the UK. It involved working with young people to develop policy asks for the briefing. The briefing ends with a set of policy recommendations developed in collaboration with young advisors.

Their final output was published in November 2023 and was the first of its kind to explore the transport needs and challenges faced by young people aged 16 to 24. It presented new analyses of national travel data, combined with insights from in-depth interviews with young people leaving school and college, to recommend ways to improve transport for 16 to 24 year olds.

The inquiry has run through several phases. We started by commissioning the Association of Young People's Health and UCL's Institute of Child Health to carry out research that would inform the inquiry's analysis. 

We published four working papers:

The first report of the inquiry, Listening to our future, built upon an engagement exercise with young people aged 22—26, conducted by Kantar Public and Livity, which aimed to build an understanding of the influences that young people felt determined their current life experiences.

The inquiry has drawn from place-based research: A place to grow draws upon conversations with over 600 young people from five sites across the UK. The report explores access to the assets needed for a healthy transition into adulthood.

A healthy foundation for the future was the final report of the listening phase of the inquiry. It sets out a range of factors that are putting the UK's 12 to 24-year-olds at risk of ill health in later life and highlights policy recommendations to improve the future health of young people.

From this, the postholder phase began. From 2020 to 2023, the Health Foundation funded five policy posts across a range of organisations, to build an understanding of experiences for 12 to 24-year-olds, and how those experiences help or hinder young people through the transition to adulthood. More information about the posts and their reports are linked above.

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