Disenfranchised and dejected

Politicians desperate to attract first-time voters are failing to address the issues of concern to a generation of disaffected young people.

Many under-25s will not bother to vote because they cannot see the relevance of politicians' promises to their lives, according to a group of academics, education specialists and youth workers.

The group - which includes Gus John, Hackney's former director of education and leisure - believes prospects for the young are even worse than in 1960. At that time, the situation was thought sufficiently serious for the Government to implement immediately the recommendations of the Albemarle Report, and set up a comprehensive youth service with proper training for workers.

Terry Willets, convenor of the academics' group, said he knew of intelligent young people who simply could not see the relevance of politics or voting to their lives. "They are disaffected, disenfranchised and dejected. You have only got to look at the data to see that young people are getting a pretty rough deal, and those aged 14 to 19 are probably the most disillusioned," he said.

Mr Willets, a part-time lecturer at de Montfort University in Leicester, said the group had sent copies of its report, Young People: Who Really Gives A Damn?, to the education spokesmen for Labour and the Conservatives. The report fully supports the United Kingdom Youth Work Alliance's report which calls for a minister for youth and governmental co-ordination of young people's affairs.

Research collated for the report includes the following: * Up to 15 per cent of teenagers suffer from depression, with the most vulnerable least likely to seek help. The number of suicides and attempted suicides is rising among older teenagers and the under-25s; * Almost half of 14 and 15 year-old girls in one survey had taken painkillers in the past week; * Half of all 12 and 13 year-olds surveyed had drunk alcohol in the past week; * One child in four is living in poverty; * At least 100,000 young people do not have secure housing. Four in ten people using Centrepoint's London shelters were 17 or under; * Under-25s who are unemployed number 600,000 - almost a third of the nation's total; * Twenty per cent of 15 and 16 year-olds do not attend school regularly, and 20 per cent leave education with no qualifications. Twenty per cent of 16 and 17 year-olds are not in education, training or work. A quarter of 18-25 year-olds are unemployed.

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