The case beyond Covid

This is the second of three briefings developed by Youth Access to support our members, the wider youth sector, commissioners and policymakers to anticipate and respond to the scale of socio-economic and mental health need among younger generations over the coming year and beyond. It summarises the evidence behind an integrated, youth-focused approach to supporting young people, in the model of Youth Information, Advice and Counselling Services (YIACS) that make up our membership. In doing so, it makes the case for a key role for local voluntary sector services such as YIACS and ‘early support hubs’ in tackling the ‘whole life’ challenges facing young people in light of the pandemic. 

As the first briefing in this series showed, young people have borne the brunt of the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic which, in turn, is having a serious and worrying effect on their mental health and wellbeing. This is of particular concern for young people who faced multiple disadvantages before Covid-19. The same young people who already experienced the worst mental health prior to the crisis – including young women, people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and young people living in poverty – have also been hardest hit by the pandemic. 
Responding to these challenges will require a joined-up approach that takes effective, targeted and sustainable measures to support young people across every area of their lives. Failure to do so risks carving up young people’s issues and providing disjointed care which focuses on symptoms, rather than outcomes; preventing young people from overcoming challenges which cut across different areas of their lives. 

It is past time to realise the recommendations outlined in Future in Mind, to invest in the existing network of YIACS to improve young people’s access to early help. Young people can wait no more for investment in the services that will support them with the impact of the pandemic and the challenges thrown up on the journey into adulthood. With their wealth of expertise and deep roots in the communities they support, YIACS – and ‘open access’ services in general – must be at the heart of concerted efforts to support young people out of the present crisis.