More young people 'face vulnerable future'

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The Independent Online
MANY YOUNG people are being cut off from mainstream life in Britain and face a future of rootlessness, vulnerability and official neglect, according to a report published today by the British Youth Council.

The report, drawing statistics from government surveys and independent bodies, says the reality for an increasing number of the 8.7 million people aged between 16 and 25 is no job, no home and little money.

A measure of the stress young people are facing, it says, is their suicide rate. Over a quarter of those calling the Samaritans for the first time are under 25 - one every four minutes. Seven per cent are under 15.

While the overall number of suicides fell slightly between 1979 and 1989, the rate increased by 31 per cent, from 435 to 569, among young people. Among young men it rose by 53 per cent: the rate for young women dropped by 27 per cent.

The council, which calls itself the representative body for people aged between 16 and 25, describes the report as alarming. Bernard Donoghue, its chairperson, says that government policies are failing to address the realities faced by a 'silent and vulnerable' group.

In an introduction, Cardinal Basil Hume, leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, says that young people are often depicted as more unruly and self-centred. But the high incidence of youth poverty, homelessness and unemployment painted a 'very different picture of what it is to be young in Britain in the 1990s'.

The report says that young people are smoking more, needlessly worried about their weight and threatened by Aids, about which most of them claim to lack information. The education and training they receive is among the least adequate of Western countries and their pay and benefits are falling. There are 864,000 unemployed under 25 - 32 per cent of the total, although they make up 20 per cent of the working population. Among areas spotlighted are:

Health: Each week 170 under- 16s become pregnant. Fifty-six per cent of school-leavers feel they do not know enough about HIV and Aids.

Education and Training: Of 13 OECD countries surveyed recently, the UK had the lowest rate of participation in full- time education among the 16 to 18 age group.

Poverty: Thirty per cent of children were living in or on the margin of poverty, measured by the supplementary benefit and income support levels, in 1991.

The Time of Your Life?; British Youth Council, 57 Chalton St, London NW1 1HU; pounds 4.