Bedford Giving has published a new research report, Listening and Responding to our Community Needs, highlighting what young people and residents in the borough said they need.
The issues most frequently highlighted by young people as a “massive challenge” were mental health, bad experiences online, and not enough things to do that are free, followed by peer pressure and bullying, crime/personal safety, and a lack of role models.
Expert community researchers, Kaizen, were commissioned to engage with and listen to a cross-section of the community, people whose voices typically had not been heard. They spoke to more than 500 residents, including 200 young people and their views were given anonymously.
Among the feedback from young people were comments saying: “A lot of young people are struggling with mental health after the pandemic, there’s too much pressure.”
Most young people asked said that they had had few opportunities to share their views before. They also shared ideas about what would make a difference to their lives.
Over half of the young people’s comments called for vocational support – including more opportunities to work, find apprenticeships and work placements. A typical comment about the support that would be appreciated was: “Something relating to occupation or employment. For some of us there’s going to be limited opportunities, so anything is a plus.”
Many others highlighted a need for life skills support, especially on ‘adult’ issues such as finances and taxes as well as developing skills in topics such as anger management, drugs, gangs and crime; career advice and mentoring; and funding for study.
Young people expressed a wish for more safe spaces, as well as more things to do in Bedford that were free, otherwise they “end up on the street.”
Among all those spoken to, the group most commonly highlighted as needing more support were children and young people.
This ‘eye opening’ research inspired the new Bedford Giving movement to set up its first projects to seek to transform the lives of children and young people in the borough, focusing on mentoring, work experience and younger children.
Bedford Giving Chair Kevin Bolt explained: “This eye-opening research really helped us hear from a cross section of people in Bedford, particularly young people.
“The people and organisations involved in Bedford Giving could see that there was more we could all do to improve the lives of children and young people in the borough, and that there was a lot of goodwill and energy across our community to help.
“We believe that everyone in Bedford has something to give, whether it’s time, skills, money or – in this case – their first-hand knowledge about community needs.
“We’re incredibly grateful to everyone, who gave their time and shared their voices, and we hope this research will help inspire others to get involved and give”.
Bedford Giving is a collaboration of eight founding partners which aims to mobilise the whole community to get involved, delivering new initiatives and bringing people together.
The first three Bedford Giving programmes include a Parent Panel, giving parents of young children a voice, a career mentoring scheme to help 13 to 15-year-olds raise their aspirations, and a project to help young people access in-person work experience who might otherwise miss out.
Kevin added: “Bedford Giving will be following up later in the year, offering young people further support in other areas highlighted in the report, and seeing what else we can do to help younger children whose voices were less heard in this research. “
To read the research report or find out more about Bedford Giving visit www.bedfordgiving.org.uk/our-research