It feels like everyone makes decisions for us and don’t really ask what we think or what we’d like.’
Just 20% of young people feel they have enough of a say in which services are provided
79% of minority ethnic groups to want to have more of a say compared to 50% white British
48% of all young people are willing to help in some way to provide services
5% think voluntary organisations or faith groups have a right to change their behaviour
A major survey of young people’s views on public services launched today (July 11) has revealed that they overwhelmingly feel excluded from decisions about the provision of local services. However, the research by the University of Birmingham Policy Commission also revealed a strong appetite amongst young people to become involved in delivering local services, in many cases by volunteering their own time.
The research also demonstrated that although many government awareness campaigns are well recognized by young people they overwhelming reject that MP’s or local government has the right to influence their behavior.
The results form part of the Birmingham Policy Commission’s findings, which publishes its vision for public services today. The findings will be launched with a debate involving figures from politics and public services at 6pm on Monday 11th July.
The survey conducted with the think tank Demos and LVQ Research Ltd interviewed 782 young people aged 11-21 as part of the Children’s Omnibus survey undertaken in April 2011, quizzing them on topics from their current use of public services, the amount of time young people are prepared to put into shaping local services and who has the right to influence their behaviour.
92% of people interviewed had used a least one local service in the last year. The most popular services were libraries, leisure services (i.e. council gyms and outdoor playing facilities) and youth clubs. Outdoor playing facilities and leisure centres were considered the most important services amongst respondents.
However, the results also demonstrated that young people feel they are not adequately consulted about the future of local public services.
Only 20% of young people feel they have enough of a say in which services are provided in their area. The percentage who feel they do not have enough of a say remains high, even when reaching age 18 (76%) increasing to 85% at age 21
Importantly for policy makers, young people are willing to get actively involved in influencing services with 48% of all young people willing to help in some way to provide services. Of those willing to help, young people are most likely to say they are willing to sign a petition (48%), then volunteer to design services (39%), then run services (36%). Young people already connected to voluntary organisations are more likely than other service users to express an interest in running them (60%).
Just over three-fifths (61%) of young people want to have more of a say in which services are provided and this is highest amongst the 15–18 (68%) age group and those in higher education (69%). Minority ethnic groups were much more likely to want to have more of a say (79%) compared to 50% white British.
Professor Helen Sullivan from the Birmingham Policy Commission comments: “The results present a very clear picture of young people who feel that their voice is not being heard when it comes to the future of local services. However, it also shows that as a constituency they are keen to get involved in shaping their local area. Nearly half of young people surveyed are prepared to get actively involved in improving public services, by volunteering their time or lobbying.
The Commission repeatedly heard that young people felt decisions were made for them rather than in consultation with them.”
The survey also showed that young people do not feel that either local or national politicians have a right to influence their behaviour. Although they are overwhelmingly aware of government campaigns in healthy eating, sexual health only 12% of those surveyed feel that local or national government had a right to influence behaviour. Interestingly for the government’s ‘Work’ agenda, only 6% of unemployed young people felt that MPs had the right to change their behaviour compared to 18% at 6th form college.
Kitty Ussher, director of the think tank Demos comments:
“Young people are getting a raw deal. They’re keen to get involved in their local communities, but feel alienated from decision-making.
“Big Society relies on the support of today’s young people if it is to prove it is a lasting approach to public service provision. Many can’t vote now, but that is not a get-out clause for politicians ignoring their contribution.”
One young person interviewed by the Commission comments: “Governments and councils do influence [the way people think or behave] all the time and they have the right because they were voted in – but we didn’t vote for them because we can’t yet. When we can vote then they will have the right.”
Instead young people identified family and peers as the most important influencers of their behaviour. Both these groups were well ahead of any professional group including teachers and social workers. A third of young people felt that teachers had the right to influence their behaviour.
Deborah Cadman OBE who chaired the commission comments:“It is telling that young people clearly are not convinced that the messages from government and other professionals are effective in influencing their behaviour.
This disconnect is one of the reasons that we are proposing a system of Local Public Support which is rooted in local democracy and involves people in actually developing services. In our current system the arrangements for accessing and influencing services are often unnecessarily complex. This needs to change.
The only way to achieve better public services, particularly in straitened financial times is to involve local people in their design and delivery.”
Survey key findings:
Young people use public services but feel there are barriers to using them more
Young people feel they have little say in what services they receive and how they are delivered
Young people would be prepared to invest their time in developing local services
Although many government initiatives are well recognized by young people they overwhelming question whether government has the right to influence their behaviour
The story in numbers:
92% of people interviewed had used at least one local service in the last year. The most popular services were libraries, leisure services (i.e. council gym and outdoor playing facilities) and youth clubs. Outdoor playing facilities and leisure centres were considered the most important services amongst respondents.
52% reported using a library in the last 12 months. This is higher than latest figures for 16 – 24 year old usage reported in the Taking Part: The National Survey of Culture, Leisure and Sport. ry in the past 12 months).
Advice centres seemed particular important to young people aged 15 – 18, who made up 68% of those reporting using an advice service. For 11 – 14 year olds, leisure facilities are particularly important with 42% of boys indicating outdoor playing facilities were the most important service listed.
65% of young people would like to use some services more often, with higher age groups wanting to use private gyms more often.
57% of unemployed young people would like to usemore services, compared to 69% of those at school. The services young people would like to see more of are youth clubs and outdoor play facilities.
20% of young people feel they have enough of a say in which services are provided in their area. The percentage who feel they do not have enough of a say remains high, even when reaching age 18 (76%) increasing to 85% at age 21.
87% of working young people feel they do not have a say in which services are provided.. Young people in higher education were most likely to say they have enough of a say in which services are provided (29%).
However, the majority of young people think there are enough services available (60% think there are enough, against 39% think there are not).
33% of all young people think teachers have a right to change their behaviour compared to just 10% for youth workers.
5% think voluntary organisations, faith groups have a right to change their behaviour
12% think MPs have a right to change their behaviour
61% of young people would like to have more of a say in which services are provided and this is highest amongst age group 15 – 18 (68%) and those in higher education (69%)
51% of young people surveyed in the north of England want to have a say in which services are provided compared to 65% in the south
79% of minority ethnic groups to want to have more of a say compared to 50% white British.
90% of young people recognise campaigns to eat 5 fruit or vegetables a day
90% of young people recognise stop smoking campaigns
40% were aware of campaigns to engage them in volunteering activities
For further information contact: Ben Hill, PR Manager, University of Birmingham, 0121 4145134, mob 07789921163
Beatrice Karol Burks, Demos, 020 7367 6325, mob 079 2947 4938, email Beatrice.firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
The University of Birmingham:
• The University of Birmingham is a truly vibrant, global community and an internationally-renowned institution. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 4,000 international students from nearly 150 different countries.
• The University is the eighth largest employer in the Birmingham/Solihull sub-region and plays an integral role in the economic, social and cultural growth of local and regional communities; working closely with businesses and organisations, employing approximately 6,000 staff and providing 10,000 graduates annually.
• The University contributes £662 million to the City of Birmingham and £779 million to the West Midlands region, with an annual income of more than £462 million.
Demos is a think tank focused on power and politics. Our unique approach challenges the traditional ‘ivory tower’ model of policy making by giving a voice to people and communities. We work together with the groups and individuals who are the focus of our research, including them in citizens juries, deliberative workshops, focus groups and ethnographic research. Through our high quality and socially responsible research, Demos has established itself as the leading independent think tank in British politics.
Kitty Ussher is available for comment and interview