NextGen Youth Panel #Poverty


Zero hour contracts and low wages for teens need to be scrapped!

Even before the cost of living crisis had taken a grip, the NextGen Panel had identified unemployment and poverty as being among the top four concerns of today’s youth.

And during a workshop hosted by the panel in November, school leavers joined other young people in spelling out the challenges they face when trying to earn enough money to avoid poverty.

It was agreed that young people leaving school with no qualifications were hardest hard hit by the lower wages for teenagers and zero hour contracts.

These pressures, together with the spiralling cost of living, made it almost impossible for teenage adults to avoid being faced with poverty.

The young people heard first hand just how bleak life can be for those who don’t earn a liveable wage from guest speakers Paul Doherty from the charity Foodstock and Edel Diamond from the South and West Belfast Foodbank.

Paul told of how over 30 volunteers from his foodbank were delivering parcels to over 400 families, seven days a week.

He explained how anyone can fall into poverty so as well as providing much needed food aid, he and his team work to help people get new skills and training as well as support for mental health.

The young people heard how Christmas was a particular concern for many families in Belfast who are already struggling with the stark choice of whether to heat or eat.

NextGen panel members had spent a day volunteering with Foodstock, where they learnt the value of being able to help others in their own communities.

They left feeling that politicians should also spend time with the foodbanks so that they too could see firsthand the devastation facing many families.

Edel and Paul both stressed how their charities were working hard to eradicate the stigma of using foodbanks so that more people would feel comfortable asking for help.

Edel says: “People who are in work are now coming to the foodbanks. These include people on zero hour contracts and mums and dads working for minimum wage who can’t make ends meet.

The workshop attendees were shocked to hear that there are now more foodbanks in the UK than McDonalds fast food outlets.

In a discussion afterwards the young people were passionate about the need for government to act to prevent even more families and youth from living in poverty.

They all agreed that wages are not rising in line with the cost of living, something they felt politicians needed to address right away.

Some of the young people who are living alone admitted that paying rent, food and electric on a minimum age was a struggle.

Lower pay rates for teenagers and zero hour contracts also make life more difficult for young people.

Finally they all agreed that the voices of young people needed to be heard and expressed hope that the results of the Next Gen project would make politicians sit up and listen to what is being said.

Read more on this and other youth panels at the NextGen website.

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