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Church youth worker responds to half of teenagers feeling 'hopeless' about the future

by Lydia Davies

British teenagers believe they will have a worse life than their parents, according to a new poll.

The survey, conducted by YouGov for children’s charity Barnardo’s, shed light on the apprehensions of British teenagers about their future prospects. 1,001 teenagers aged 14 to 17 were interviewed, and money, job opportunities, and climate change were found to be the main concerns.

Over half of the respondents (55 per cent) expressed a belief that their lives would be worse than that of their parents' generation by the time they reach 30. Additionally, 34% believed that the future generation of children would not fare any better.

Moreover, 9 per cewnt of the surveyed teenagers admitted feeling "hopeless" about their future.

One teenager said: “Everyone is struggling these days. My mum struggles to pay the bills, and she’s a nurse with a master’s degree.

“I’m not that clever, so imagine my life will be harder than hers. We used to be able to go on holidays, but mum can’t afford it anymore.”

Another said: “My parents got their mortgage at 21. I don’t think people my age will be able to do that.”

Financial concerns weigh heavily on the minds of the respondents, with 19% fearing they would struggle to live comfortably due to inadequate finances by the age of 30. Additionally, 10% of the teenagers felt disempowered, believing they were unable to alter their future trajectories.

Sam Richards is the head of Children and Youth Work at the United Reformed Church. She told Premier Christian News that she believes teenagers' lived experience has a lot to do with their hope for the future. She referenced the “covid period” and “things they hear in the media about climate change and jobs and so forth” as large contributing factors to the reported feelings of hopelessness.

She said: “For the last few generations, there’s been an assumption that things are going to get better…but that’s a [misunderstanding] in world history, actually.”

In terms of moving forward, Richards is an advocate for young people having a voice in the church. She said, "If we are able to really listen to them, we can help the whole church to change."

Reacting to the survey findings, Barnardo’s chief executive Lynn Perry highlighted the alarming implications, stating to ITV, "The fact that children believe their lives will be harder than their parents is a sign the social contract is broken, and we’re at risk of failing the next generation." She emphasized the responsibility to improve conditions for children, saying that it is "our job to make the world better for our children, not worse."

Perry added: “Children are constantly being bombarded with news of the challenges they face – from worsening inequality and environmental concerns to health worries and an out-of-control housing market.

“None of this is of their making, but it’s just not right that children are left to dread the years ahead instead of feeling excited about their future. We know that to be especially true for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.”


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