61% of young people are more worried about their futures than before and young people from the poorest backgrounds are impacted most

Since the COVID-19 crisis caused schools to close and our programmes to be put on hold, we have been hard at work looking at how we can adapt and continue to support the young people we work with. Our conversations with young people, carers, teachers and youth workers and our latest survey highlight worrying trends and have shaped our response as a charity to the crisis.

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A note from Power2 CEO Julie Randles

Never more needed: Our latest survey highlights the concerning impact COVID-19 is having on young people

“At Power2 we believe that unfulfilled potential is one of the biggest costs to society. No young person should be left behind. That’s why I was so proud to join Power2 as CEO in January of this year.

None of us knew then what 2020 had in store and the impact COVID-19 would have. In three months the world changed unrecognisably. But as Mark Allison, one of our frontline programme staff, said: “just because we’re isolating, doesn’t mean we have to be isolated.” We knew that having to pause our face to face programmes couldn’t mean these young people were left feeling like there was no-one out there for them. They need us now more than ever.

So, just as Friday drinks and pub quizzes moved online, so did our team’s hard work. We put a call out to young people from our programmes to be interviewed and 60 came forward straight away. We supported, listened to and amplified their voices and those of their teachers, carers and youth workers. You can see some of these insights on our Life in Lockdown hub.

We witnessed great strength and resilience, but we also heard cause for concern. They’re struggling with schoolwork, mental health and routine. We wanted to understand more so we surveyed over 500 young people on the themes that were emerging from our conversations. The results below paint a potentially alarming picture and our experience tells us that without urgent intervention, the situation will have had a lasting impact on life-changing issues such as mental health and educational attainment.

Too many young people were already facing an opportunity gap. COVID-19 could turn that gap into a chasm which is impossible to overcome.

So we’ve responded by developing our new Power2 Rediscover programme: intensive one-to-one support that helps participants transition back into education and society. Support to rediscover their emotional wellbeing, motivation and direction in the 'new normal'.

We hope you’ll help us to get these young people’s voices heard and to provide the support they so urgently need. Click here to sign up to hear more.

Julie Randles, CEO


Education: school closures are impacting academic progress and confidence

49% 64%


are worried about going back to school are finding it hard to stay motivated to do their schoolwork do not feel supported to complete their schoolwork

We’re seeing a worrying trend in terms of young people’s motivation during school closures, and the young people we typically work with were already disengaged from their education. We know that as with most things in life, those who were already facing disadvantages will be hit hardest.

A report by the Sutton Trust has highlighted the vast inequality in educational access and support during this time. For example, almost twice as many middle class students access online lessons every day compared to those from working class backgrounds. For students in private schools, it’s more than three times as many. While schools are starting to transition back we know that it will be a long time until most can return to a normal routine. We also know that a lot of young people need scaffolded support to re-establish routines and overcome pre-existing functional needs that have been exacerbated during lockdown, before they will be ready to start learning again. The National Foundation for Educational Research has flagged that young people from low income families will be more likely to be out of school for longer, and especially in London, the North West and West Midlands - the areas in which Power2 has worked for the last 20 years.

While the debate about how and when it will be safe to get all students back in school continues, we know that looking after each other needs to be at the heart of that. We’re determined to help young people throughout closures and support their transition back into education so that they don’t suffer long term setbacks.

Everyone’s really stressing about their future. Lockdown might have been a good thing for some people but when it came to our school, our education, that’s gone downhill for us.” – Ashanti, 17

“I have a lot of work to complete but I still feel like I have missed out on a lot of my education.” – Zoe, 13


Mental health: isolation and uncertainty are taking a toll

49% 41% 61%
are struggling with lack of routine said lockdown was already negatively impacting their mental health are more worried about their future now than they were before the crisis

Mental health and emotional wellbeing is always a priority for us. Many of the young people we work with experience mental health challenges and we recognise that addressing this is an important factor in helping them reach their potential. So we’re concerned by the impact we’re seeing lockdown have on the emotional wellbeing of our young people.

We’re not the only ones to be worried. Previous surveys have also found that mental health concerns are being triggered and worsened by the current situation. Both lack of routine and social media may be contributing to this and other wellbeing issues. According to a recent report by the National Youth Agency “over a million young people have self-reported mental health issues. There is a spike in concerns raised on Help Lines, with 84% reporting worse mental health following school closures and 26% being no longer able to access mental health support.”

It’s understandable that young people feel uncertainty about the future and while the current situation is taking a toll on all of us, for those without adequate support and coping mechanisms, the impact of COVID-19 will be harder to bear. Lasting damage could be done to their emotional wellbeing and hard-won progress from before the pandemic could be lost unless we act fast. We can’t risk losing them.

As Kemoy Walker, Pastoral Manager at St Matthew’s RC High School, shared when we spoke to him, practical support is needed as a priority as we transition back to a “new normal”. This support will continue to be a core part of our work and lies at the heart of the Power2 Rediscover programme.

“My anxiety is really bad and I’m really struggling to cope with it more than usual. I’m not sure why. Being in the house a lot makes me feel down.” – Carly, 13

“Schools are going to need extra mental health support for when we go back... that’s got to be a priority plan” - Kemoy Walker, Pastoral Manager at St Matthew’s RC High School


Opportunity gap: disadvantaged young people face more challenges and will pay higher price

Among young people from areas with the most socio-economic disadvantage:

1.4x 1.3x  32%
as likely to be getting into bad habits including poor diet and sleep patterns as likely to be finding the situation challenging having everyone at home don’t feel like they have anyone to talk to

As the writer Damien Barr shared in a tweet that struck a chord with many, we may be experiencing the same storm, but some people have better boats. Following the release of concerning analysis on the topic by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (featured in the Guardian) Xiaowei Xu, a senior IFS research economist, stated that “for the longer term there must be serious worries about the effect of this crisis on the young especially and on inequality more generally.”

Put simply: the younger generation will pay for the long-term consequences of the coronavirus crisis, and those who were already disadvantaged will pay the highest price.

That’s what makes these trends from our survey all the more concerning. We know from our work with young people that to overcome the opportunity gap it is important they know that there is someone out there for them. It’s vital they have support to develop positive habits and coping strategies for the challenges they face every day. These things really do make a difference. How we intervene now could shape the lives of these young people who need us most.

And that’s why we’re determined to offer support to as many young people as possible via our Power2 Rediscover programme and beyond for a typical period of three years total support. We will not let the gap become a chasm; instead we will give these young people the power to bridge it and build a better future.

I’m staying at my dad’s girlfriend’s house. So I’m sharing a room with my two sisters and we’ve been fighting over stuff. Relationships in my family are definitely changing with everyone isolating together. Everyone is arguing, screaming and getting stressed” – Amy, 13

“I just don’t want to feel like I’m alone” – Luke, 19


Will you hear these young people’s voices and help us bridge the chasm?

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