30 April 2024

Trapped in the cost of living crisis: YMCA report reveals desperate choices of our nation’s young people

New research released by YMCA paints a stark picture of the challenges and harsh truth imposed by the ongoing cost of living crisis, particularly affecting young individuals in supported housing.

Titled ‘Trapped in the Cost of Living Crisis’ the report uncovers the testimonies and remarkable resilience of young residents who live precariously through relentless financial pressures, and how the hope of overcoming these challenges is diminishing daily.

Their struggles, such as food insecurity, inability to afford basic utilities, and restricted access to transportation for school or work, are driving a significant decline in mental health and general wellbeing. These young people are forced into dire choices between essential needs every day, a situation that demands our immediate attention and action.

The twenties are supposed to be the best years of your life, but if this is the best, then I don’t really wanna make it to 30 if I’m honest,” shared Leah (24), one of the young individuals grappling with the cost-of-living crisis.

Regarded by some young people as the ‘new normal’, findings in the report highlight that the steep rise in living costs is drastically undermining young people’s ability to meet basic living standards, leading to poor nutrition, missed meals, and the pervasive risk of debt and rent arrears. The inadequacy and burden of Universal Credit to cover monthly expenses further complicates financial management for many.

“It is horrible,” says Oscar (20). “I never expected myself to be in this situation, you know what I mean, like because I thought there’s someone who needs it more than me, but then when I went, like, three days without eating, I was like, ‘No, I need to be able to get some food.”‘

The report also illuminates the challenges faced by local YMCAs, which have seen a surge in demand for housing amid the ongoing housing crisis. Energy bills have skyrocketed, further stretching already thin resources, and limiting the ability to provide essential services to young people.

“As the world’s largest youth charity, we witness the harsh realities of this crisis daily, seeing young people struggle to scrape by,” stated Denise Hatton, Chief Executive of YMCA England & Wales. “Immediate action is crucial to implement these recommendations and ensure that young people can live with dignity and look forward to a brighter future.”

The report suggests critical measures to mitigate these issues, including revising Housing Benefit taper rates to ease the transition into employment, enhancing Universal Credit top-ups for those under 25 to reflect actual living costs better, and reforming related welfare policies. It also advocates for a grace period for new workers and the introduction of an Essentials Guarantee to ensure a minimum income for all benefit claimants sufficient to cover basic costs.

YMCA urges policymakers to recognise the severe toll the current cost of living crisis is taking on young people, and swiftly enact the proposed changes. These actions are not just beneficial; they are essential to relieving financial pressures and providing a more secure future for young individuals. That future is at stake, and we must act now to secure it.

Denise Hatton concluded with, “YMCA is dedicated to supporting young people through these turbulent times and calls for collective action to tackle the systemic challenges identified in the report. With the right measures in place, policymakers can create a future where all young people can thrive.”

Read the full report here.