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Listening to young people’s voices: Labour’s victory and the role of wellbeing data in delivering manifesto promises

Labour’s victory and the role of wellbeing data in delivering manifesto promises

The Labour Party has won the UK general election in a landslide victory, marking the most significant change in government in over 14 years. This transition brings with it a welcome commitment to the wellbeing of children and young people (CYP), highlighted by several key manifesto pledges aimed at addressing critical areas of concern. But the Labour Party will need more than a majority in the House of Commons to successfully deliver on these promises.   

As we look forward to how the new government will deliver its commitments to CYP’s wellbeing, the #BeeWell research team shares why large-scale, granular data will be instrumental in achieving a number of manifesto goals. Such data will enable government bodies and allied professional services to accurately pinpoint areas of need and understand both what is driving the decline in young people’s mental health and wellbeing in the UK and, crucially, which factors in their lives are most important for promoting wellbeing.  

young people socialising,

 

Programmes like #BeeWell have emerged in response to alarmingly low levels of wellbeing in young people across the UK, and are a way of understanding how young people feel about their wellbeing by surveying them directly. We publish results privately to schools and publicly by neighbourhood. Armed with bespoke data, schools, local government and health, and voluntary sector partners can prioritise actions in areas where the greatest improvements can be made. To date we have heard the voices of more than 85,000 young people aged 12-15 years from almost 300 secondary schools in Greater Manchester, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Portsmouth, and Southampton. Our mission is to see this approach implemented nationally by 2030. With large-scale, descriptive data such as this at their fingertips, incoming ministers would be in a strong position to deliver on promises made and improve the wellbeing of young people across the country. 

 


Commitment to youth mental health and future prospects 

“Labour will intervene earlier to stop young people being drawn into crime, creating a new Young Futures programme with a network of hubs reaching every community. These hubs will have youth workers, mental health support workers, and careers advisers on hand to support young people’s mental health and avoid them being drawn into crime.” 

 

Mental health difficulties are becoming more prevalent among young people. NHS Digital data shows that one in five young people have a probable mental disorder with certain groups disproportionately affected. There are clearly major hurdles to overcome in the wake of perpetual cuts to public health spending and the new government must prioritise resource allocation to the most disenfranchised groups in society if it is to have a meaningful impact. 

Specifically, Labour’s pledge should prioritise opportunities for gender and sexuality minoritised youth as these groups are consistently reported as the most in need. The latest #BeeWell data showed that 45% of those identifying as bisexual or pansexual and 41% of those who are gay or lesbian experience high levels of emotional difficulties compared to just 12% of heterosexual young people. 22% of cisgender girls experience significant emotional difficulties compared to 6% of cisgender boys, rising to 34% of trans and gender diverse young people, and 21% for those questioning their gender identity. Responding to this issue and using #BeeWell insights, the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership established a youth-led commissioning pot dedicated to promoting activities to support the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth. In Hampshire, Breakout Youth, a charity offering group-based support for LGBTQ+ children and young people, are collaborating with #BeeWell to support young people to interpret and contextualise the specific #BeeWell findings for LGBTQ+, and make recommendations to improve the wellbeing of gender and sexual minoritised groups in the surrounding area. More work is needed to address these inequalities across the country. 

 

“Labour will provide access to specialist mental health professionals in every school, so every young person has access to early support to address problems before they escalate.” 

 

There are concerns surrounding the uptake, awareness, availability, and effectiveness of current mental health support in schools. #BeeWell data showed that one in five young people in Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and Southampton accessed mental health and wellbeing support at their school in 2023.  However, fewer than half of young people felt they could access support when needed; just over half understood how to access help, and only one in three found that help useful.  

The pledge to offer specialist support in every school is both commendable and, according to our data, necessary. We propose advancement of school-based service provision may best be achieved by: raising awareness of the support available; offering said support in a timely fashion and critically; ensuring that support is effective and appropriate for the needs of a diverse body of young people. In tandem, using #BeeWell as an example, we encourage greater surveillance of both mental health and help-seeking behaviours across all schools to monitor the extent to which support offered meets demand, and to track effectiveness when delivered. With insights gathered from their own pupils, mental health professionals in schools can more easily identify specific needs and create bespoke support strategies, in turn helping to ease the burden on vastly overstretched Children & Adolescent Mental Health Services. 

 


 Enhancing community safety and wellbeing 

“Labour will restore neighbourhood policing with thousands of extra officers […] We will tackle the epidemic of serious violence, with a greater focus on prevention, including by holding those companies and executives cashing in on knife crime personally to account.” 

 

Beyond school, children and young people also spend a lot of time in their local community. Feeling safe and having good places to go in your local area can be crucial for wellbeing. Labour’s manifesto includes robust measures to enhance community safety and address antisocial behaviour by increasing neighbourhood police presence and implementing strategies to reduce knife crime. In 2023 the non-partisan House of Commons Library released a report indicating that over the past decade, incidences of knife crime increased by 170%.  

Whilst a harrowing statistic, and rightly a focus area for the new government, prevalence rates differ substantially across the UK. Some less affected neighbourhoods may be better served by improvements to other services and provision such as access to community facilities. Indeed, #BeeWell data shows that around 8 in 10 young people report feeling safe in their local area, but only 6 in 10 feel they have good places to go. An approach to improving community neighbourhoods needs to go beyond addressing crime and safety, and understanding other factors which might be important for wellbeing, such as access to community sports facilities, arts, culture, entertainment and green space and crucially, how that access varies geographically.  

The proposed network of youth hubs established through the Young Futures Programme could also play a crucial role in fostering a sense of belonging and community, addressing issues of loneliness, and providing safe places for young people to gather. If done well, this network could provide comprehensive support for mental health and future prospects in areas where it is most needed. In #BeeWell areas, local policy-makers can already compare statistics across 14 local authorities and 110 neighbourhoods in Greater Manchester and Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and Southampton. Expanding this level of granularity across the UK could enable government to strategically locate hubs in the areas they may have the greatest impact. 

 


Promoting physical activity and access to sport 

“We will get more children active by protecting time for physical education, and supporting the role grassroots clubs play in expanding access to sport.” 

 

The manifesto’s emphasis on protecting time for physical education resonates strongly with #BeeWell’s findings. Young people who are physically active report higher levels of life satisfaction and psychological wellbeing, making the need to encourage activity in youth apparent. Unfortunately, national statistics suggest in the UK, over half of CYP are insufficiently active and that activity tends to decrease with age. Our data also depicts a widening gender gap (with boys more active than girls). Using these insights, GM Moving developed a youth-led campaign to support the mental wellbeing of girls who are less likely to take part in physical activity. Co-produced with 11-16-year-olds, Feel Good Your Way hopes to show young people moving more is achievable, social, and a valuable tool for their mental wellbeing; with girls (cis and trans) and feminine presenting non-binary young people feeling inspired, represented, and supported. #BeeWell data also indicates that sports-based social-emotional learning programmes like Football Beyond Borders have also been shown to improve the wellbeing of young people experiencing emotional difficulties and challenges in school. With this in mind, protecting time for PE and promoting participation in inclusive movement and sports led by trusted adults could make a real difference for young people experiencing lower wellbeing. 

 


 Supporting creative education 

“Labour will support children to study a creative or vocational subject until they are 16, and ensure accountability measures reflect this.” 

 

#BeeWell data shows a clear link between participation in arts, culture and entertainment and positive wellbeing outcomes for young people, and some of our partners, like Curious Minds, with the support of Arts Council England, are already working with schools to explore how creative arts can be used to address locally specific wellbeing issues. But, the data also shows that those from socioeconomically deprived backgrounds are less likely to take part in these activities. By promoting creative hobbies such as singing, reading for pleasure, arts and crafts, or youth club organised activities, Labour’s policies could help foster a more holistic educational experience that enriches both mental and physical health, especially for those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.   

 


The Importance of Data-Driven Decision Making 

“Labour will improve data sharing across services, with a single unique identifier.” 

 

Labour’s pledge to improve data sharing across services with a single unique identifier is a significant step towards more informed decision-making. This enables schools and local authorities to tailor their responses to the specific needs of their communities. Enhanced data sharing will facilitate better coordination among services, ensuring that support is targeted and effective. However, to really understand and improve young people’s wellbeing, we need to listen to their voices and what they tell us about factors that affect their lives. Educational settings are an ideal place to regularly and consistently measure the wellbeing of young people. By supporting schools to do this, the insights this type of data can provide are huge, both for schools that have bespoke data made readily available, as well as local government and civil society partners working in this area. This level of granularity would also support the Labour government to make informed decisions regarding the rollout and prioritisation of its manifesto pledges to deliver the greatest benefit for young people.