Neil Griffiths, CEO Arts Emergency
Today we are launching a Community Appeal having spoken to our young members and learnt more about the devastating effect this crisis is having on them and their families. If we don’t organise now so many young people will go from lockdown to locked out when the rush to return to ‘normal’ begins. We cannot let this happen, they need fair opportunities and as a society we desperately need their new ideas, their optimism, and their fearlessness.
Our youngest members have told us they are struggling to study and are worried about grades because of difficult circumstances at home, or struggling for access to wifi or a computer. Exam cancellations will hit them hard as high attaining low income students are more likely to have their grades under-predicted. Unsurprising then that the schools shutdown is likely to further widen the attainment gap.
For our members graduating university this year they are likely to suffer ‘scarring’ effects on their wages for as long as five years after starting work. They are worried about the bleak jobs market stalling their future careers. Those on zero hours contracts or in part-time work have had their income disappear and are now trying to navigate universal credit to keep supporting their households.
In response to the lockdown we’re helping by giving them reliable information on exams, schools and higher education. We’re increasing our pastoral support and contact hours, particularly to our most vulnerable young people. We’re creating online and offline resources for wellbeing and development and posting these out where necessary. We’re working with the NSPCC to expand all of our safeguarding functions in the face of increased risks. Above all we’re ensuring all our projects continue remotely and people stay in touch. Having a line to trained mentors and our small central team is very important at the moment, since lockdown 83% of young people have experienced a negative impact on their mental health and many are increasingly lonely.
When this crisis eases and lockdown ends I am genuinely worried that inclusion will take a back seat and aspirations will plummet. Imagine trying to break through in a landscape where funding is scarce, outreach projects are closed, arts and humanities in higher education further diminished, and paid jobs in culture are at an unbelievable premium.
Aliyah: “It’s so important for us, since other programmes have been completely cancelled, with no other alternatives”. Aliyah, 16.
If you’re reading this and have worked with an Arts Emergency mentee, you will understand why I believe this growing collective of young minds is our great great hope for the future. It’s my privilege to know a great many of them really well – some are now colleagues and trustees. Seeing their path in life suddenly blocked like this is devastating on so many levels and positive action is urgently required.
Our aim is to raise £20,000 for our Community Programme, to provide an extra layer of support and bolster the team that organises all of our work experience placements, free tickets, paid opportunities, progression mentoring, training workshops and youth campaigning. We want to give this generation the best possible chance to forge a positive path.
If you’re able to donate it will make a big difference to what we can do over the coming year. Young people need reliable support more than ever in this fast changing situation. Be it a monthly gift or a one-off amount, you are providing practical help and real chances for someone at a crucial time.
Thank you and take care, Neil.
5 May 2020