Covid boosts interest in politics, education and environment among young

·3-min read

Young people have become more interested in politics, education and the environment since Covid-19 struck – but feel shut out of political decisions that affect their lives, according to a new survey.

These mixed feelings were expressed by some of the 2,091 14 to 24-year-olds in the UK who were quizzed in a YouGov survey for the Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) Award scheme.

Politicians rarely listen to the views of young people if at all, according to 75% of those questioned, while 68% believed politicians make decisions with little or no consideration of the impact they might have on future generations.

There were 39% of youngsters who said they felt more interested in politics now than before the pandemic, while 86% noted they rarely or never see people aged under 30 in positions of power.

Children in schools
(Martin Rickett/PA)

DofE youth ambassador Sian McQuillan, 23, said: “When decisions are being made that will have an impact in future years, it is so important that young people are included in these discussions.

“Young people now are the ones who will be in positions of power in future years and have to make the decisions based on what has come before, so it is so important that their voices are heard on issues that will have an impact upon them in later life.”

DofE Award chief executive Ruth Marvel called for youth perspectives to be at the “heart” of any discussions about helping young people rebuild their lives in a post-Covid world as the pandemic has left many facing mental health issues, record unemployment and deepening in equalities.

She said: “There is a new energy among young people who want to make a difference and have their voices heard but that energy must be actively encouraged and meaningfully engaged by decision-makers across politics and business.

“If we are to have a world that works for young people, consistent listening and learning from their ideas is critical.”

Education – Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme – Lyndhurst
Duke of Edinburgh’s Award entrants plot their route through the New Forest (Chris Ison/PA)

Enjoying extra-curricular activities – such as sports, creativity and outdoor learning – was among the positives to come from the pandemic, according to 54% of the youngsters who were surveyed.

There was also 40% of people who said they were more interested in taking part in campaigns and 30% who now thought they might try volunteering.

Ms Marvel added: “Young people across the UK have suffered because of Covid – making sure every single one has regular access to extracurricular learning is a critical part of their recovery.”

The survey comes as the DofE launched a manifesto which it believes can outline ways to help the UK’s youth recover from the pandemic.

It calls for more specialist mental health support in schools, action on climate change and a new “future generations” law to ensure that any proposed new laws are assessed for how they would affect young people’s lives in the future.

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