YouthNet & Get Connected – Together we are stronger

Our CEO, Chris Martin, has written a blog on why our proposed merger with Get Connected is instrumental to young people accessing support.

Chris Martin (he/him)
Chief Executive Officer

Last week YouthNet and Get Connected announced the exciting news that we intend to merge our charities. But why would we do this? We are already two of the UK’s leading youth support services for young people aged 16-25. Between us we reach nearly 1.7 million of them every year. Isn’t that good enough? Absolutely not.

Young people face unprecedented challenges

There are growing pressures on young people, but services continue to suffer cuts. 900,000 young people are still not yet in education, employment or training. More than half of those, who are seeking help with homelessness, are under 25 and 31% of young people will experience family breakdown by their 16th birthday. When shocking statistics like these are combined with the growing pressure on young people from the digital world, identified in our YouthLab research, we see the root causes of a crisis in mental wellbeing that has led 61% of school age young people to skip lessons through stress and anxiety.

It is well documented that austerity measures have hit our sector hard. UNISON estimates that £60 million was withdraw from youth services between 2012 and 2014 alone. As a result many of the places that young people used to depend on for support have been cut and the threshold for entry to vital services like CAMHS continues to rise.

All around us, we see amazing young people who deserve positive futures facing unprecedented challenges. You can enter any meeting of sector professionals and hear the same bleak story. So the question that we asked ourselves was simply: “What are we going to do about it?”

A multi-channel approach

The staff teams at YouthNet and Get Connected are deeply committed to improving the support available to young people whatever their issue and whenever they need the help. To us, it was very clear that young people were in danger of being left with a support system that was fragmented and not consistent, single issue not holistic and in many cases highly paternal rather than delivered on their own terms.

Our solution is to pool our resources and expertise to create single, multi-channel offering to support wellbeing and opportunity in young people at scale through the technology of their choice.

We know that when young people seek support they reach out first through digital, social and mobile. By combining YouthNet’s extensive digital reach with Get Connected’s outstanding helpline we can ensure young people have the support they need through the channels they use. Expert information, signposting, online peer support, 121 crisis intervention and counselling all in one place, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

An offer of this size and ambition has never been available to young people before and we are very aware that we cannot deliver it alone.

The volunteers who work across our services will be vital to ensure we can match the demand from young people. We in turn will ensure that volunteering with our services leads to accreditation and training than contributes to employability.

Working in partnership with the Sector and volunteers

Moreover, we will always be stronger when we work in partnership with our sector colleagues. The new charity will focus on serving our sector by signposting to services with specialist skills sets and local provision with the aim of creating a coherent user journey for young people that bridges the gap between online and offline services and makes the most of existing provision.

As a sector we must be driven by a genuine sense of urgency around young people’s mental wellbeing. I am always struck by how the passion of my sector colleagues for their work has remained undiminished by the challenges they face. Our new charity is an attempt to rise to these challenges. Our objective is to become the first point of contact for any young person seeking information and support in the UK. In doing so we will give young people the support they desperately need and through the channels they want it.

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Published on 17-Nov-2015