Tuesday at the Conservative Party youth zone, the Children’s Society and the professional association for social workers (BASW) hosted an event looking how we as a society can support vulnerable 16 and 17 year-olds.

The Children’s Society’s ‘Crumbling Futures report showed that 16 and 17 year-olds need more support as they move into adulthood. Often seen as ‘young adults’, it can be assumed that they are ‘ok’ and not as vulnerable as young children, or that it’s too late.The panel unanimously agreed that this perception needs to change. As Conservative MP Alex Burghart said:

‘We must fix the issue while they are children and then give them the right transitional support into adulthood’.

With over 58,000 16 and 17 year-olds categorised as in need, it’s important that these services are fit for purpose. Hannah Chetwynd from the Children’s Society, opening the event, stated that 46 per cent of those young people referred to services are turned away, with 30 per cent of those turned away being done so without any assessment. Seeing this, its clear the support available is lacking.

So why is their such a pitfall of young people who aren’t receiving assessment when referred, let alone given the support when needed? The Crumbling Futures report states that the majority of respondents believe that support available to 16 and 17 year-olds has decreased in the last five years. Not a shocking statistic when considering the constant decline in youth service funding. This is confirmed by national statistics on children in need and suggests a growing problem. If you have less money then those who are a priority become the only ones who get the service.

As one social worker states in the report:

‘People do their best but when faced with an angry teenager where the work needs to be tenacious, skilled and sensitive, and other work is pressing with a toddler in a domestic violence situation, it’s likely the worker will give up on the teenager’.

This essentially means that more and more 16 and 17 year-olds, seen as less vulnerable, are left alone despite their slow entrance into adulthood — which is beset with its own issues. As Ruth Allen, CEO of the BASW, said:

‘Transition into adulthood is not just simply turning 18, it takes much longer’.

Indeed, it’s a slow transition that requires time and experience which differs for every young person. Some require help and currently those that do aren’t receiving it.

The Crumbling Futures report goes on to showcase the biggest issues facing 16 and 17 year-olds that are being refereed, making for some grim reading. For example: 55 per cent required support for drug misuse, 63 per cent required support due to poverty and a shocking 74 per cent required support around mental health issues.

Mental health has been a huge topic throughout both the Labour and the Conservative Party conferences, being a widely debated issues. And yet the very services that support young people through this have been cut. A hefty 90 per cent of those surveyed for the report agreed that the support needs to be improved.

There is a £3bn funding gap in children’s services currently. Money isn’t everything, but services don’t run on air. It may sound like a large sum, but it is clear that mental health is becoming a major national concern, especially when 30 per cent of those being turned away are done so without any assessment.

How many problems and costs could we prevent in later life if we had a strong, well-funded youth service that could deal with the issues at source early on.

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