How We’re Tackling Digital Inequality and Why we Need Your Support to Win Digital Leaders 2016

Head shot image - MicrosoftIn the age of social media, it is easy to assume all young people are on the same side of the digital divide. That they all spend their free time on Instagram and Snapchat, tapping away on their smartphones, uploading, liking and commenting on content.

Yes, both social networks are dominated by young users but these young users are at one end of the digital spectrum. On the other end, you will find many young people from disadvantaged backgrounds with very important gaps in digital skills. In fact, 15% of young people state they lack confidence in their skills to use the internet.

Of course, lacking “confidence in (their) skills to use the internet” could make one think they are simply missing out on surfing the web and clicking through YouTube video after YouTube video.

Yet it’s more than that. The internet is how we apply for jobs, find homes, find college places and get advice and support. Lacking confidence in using the internet will not only impact a young person’s personal life, it will impact their professional life too.

Furthermore, Oxford University’s Internet Surveys programme identified nearly 100,000 young people as “a-digital” (OXIS, 2013). More worryingly, by the time they reach employment age, a tenth of young people who are Not in Education, Employment or Training are “out of their depth” using a computer (Prince’s Trust, 2015).

It is clear this digital inequality must be tackled.

The youth sector – with it’s highly skilled professionals experienced in working with young people from challenging backgrounds and with complex needs – is well placed to make a positive difference and to cut the digital gap.

From 2012 to 2015, we worked with tech giant Microsoft and 75 youth organisations across the country to deliver Microsoft Youth Hubs. An innovative programme that has seen over 11,000 young people benefit from access to digital resources and as well as training in technology, business, or life skills as part of the scheme.

This year we are upping the ante. As part of Generation Code, our new Microsoft-funded programme, UK Youth will train 440 youth workers in hundreds of centres across the UK to help 16,000 young people learn computing skills and coding.

We are proud of the work the youth sector is doing to counter digital inequality and we know we are making a positive difference to young lives.

Being named a Digital Leader, an annual celebration of digital pioneers from across the UK’s public, private and non-profit sectors, for our work with Microsoft is an incredible honour.

It recognises the impact UK Youth, Microsoft and the youth sector has had on chipping away at that digital divide.

Please show your support by casting a vote and helping us secure top spots in both categories we’ve been nominated in: Charity Digital Leader of the Year and Digital Inclusion and Skills Initiative of the Year.



Thoughts on the APPG Youth Affairs discussion on Mental Health

By Mev Ahmad (UK Youth Voice Peer Facilitator)

IMG_4532Despite years of campaigning, less than 10% of the NHS budget is spent on mental health services and its practically non-existent in many  regions, as Norman Lamb MP explained. Mental health is still not given the same importance as
physical health in this day and age.

Its frankly heartbreaking. So what can we do? 

Hosted by Wes Streeting MP, last Tuesday’s APPG on mental health focused on solutions and not just simply the problem of mental health services. 

Panelists included Luciana Berger MP, Norman Lamb MP, Francesa Reed (youth select committee chair), Jonny Benjamin (mental health vlogger and campaigner) and Sarah Brennan (CEO of Young Minds). 

A lot of the discussion focused on schools – embedding mental health education into school life is an important way forward. This can be achieved through PSHE classes, as emphasised by Luciana Berger MP or even science and literature classes where young people examine how mental health conditions impact the brain, as well as why Romeo and Juliet committed suicide – great suggestions by Jonny!

Other points raised include:

  • The green cure- reconnecting with nature scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety, passionately suggested by UKY Voice West rep – Joe Porter.
  • The transition from schools to academies may further fragment mental health support
  • Roll out mental health training to parents and teachers to be better equipped with supporting their children and students respectively

Whilst it is vital to embed mental health education into school life, we know that young people spend more time outside of school and majority of life’s lessons happens outside of the classroom. Therefore the support system needs to be well connected between school, home and social environments – as mentioned in the British Youth Council’s Young People’s Mental Health report which was welcomed by all.

However how are young people who are NEET able to access mental health support, especially in a time where the youth sector is facing more cuts and not resourced enough to provide a statutory service itself, let alone a mental health service.

Nonethless Sarah may be onto something. “Can peer to peer learning provide that vital mental health support for young people?”. 

Young Minds do some amazing work training young activists in mental health. It would be great if there was a young activist in every year in every school, college, uni and youth group. I think this is a great opportunity to help young people and for us to take leadership than wait for mental health support to be equalised to physical health support, as long as the young activist is fully supported by a member of staff and trained in safeguarding.  

So overall the APPG hosted an insightful discussion but we need to explore creative ways to help our peers whilst campaigning for equality in health services. Perhaps one of the solutions is peer support. With the youth sector uniting for Creative Collisions conference this November, it would be brilliant to see mental health at the forefront of the discussions.

Reflections of a Chair


Anne_Stoneham_MBE_1_thumbBy Lady Anne Stoneham MBE

Like anyone undertaking such a role, I have tried to understand what is needed to be effective as a chair. Clearly the role involves leading the Board of the Charity and ensuring that the Board works as effectively as possible so it can fulfil its function of being responsible for the governance of the Charity. So often people have asked me what has really made a real difference in trying to fulfil the responsibilities of my role.

It goes without saying that having the right people on the Board with whom to work makes an enormous difference. Getting the right combination of skills and experience on a Board is crucial and that can include high profile individuals who can bring contacts and networks that may help unlock sources of funding. This involves ongoing renewal and we recognise it means planning for the future and seeking to recruit and replace Trustees where and when required. At UK Youth we are very fortunate to have a Board with a wide variety of skills and experience from the private, public and voluntary sectors including accounting, financial, management consultancy, media and communications, education, programme management, and from the youth sector itself through our members and strategic partners. But more than that I, and the Charity, are privileged to have Board members who are genuinely passionate about the work of the Charity and what it is capable of delivering for young people. Their work and commitment is not just about turning up to meetings occasionally – it involves so much more. Not every charity is so fortunate.

What for me though has been of real value, and has made an enormous contribution to how I can fulfil my role of Chair, is that my Board members give their time and counsel when asked for and when needed to me, and all the team at UK Youth, notwithstanding the fact they are volunteers and have busy lives at work and at home. Having a fully engaged, cohesive and collegiate Board that understands its responsibilities and takes them seriously makes a huge practical difference. It is not a Board of egos but a Board that is prepared to roll up its sleeves when needed to ensure the charity is well run and sustainable. It gives support and encouragement but also seeks accountability and transparency by asking searching questions and is prepared to take tough decisions. When there have been challenges to meet, whether one off or ongoing, everyone has stepped up to the plate. Some are available whenever needed on the end of a phone or by email. Others work behind the scenes on committees or on an ad hoc basis to help support key areas of work. Trustees have taken time to attend staff meetings, meet up with key staff to support them and keep abreast of developments or issues that have needed monitoring and provided help and encouragement. As a new Chair with a new CEO, the job has at times felt daunting but it has not been lonely. I have been fantastically well supported by a committed Board, as has the executive team and the Charity, and that has made all the difference.