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Government urged to overhaul housing, transport and education policies to secure a healthy society

New Health Foundation report finds young people’s future health at risk

The government has today been urged to overhaul policies across housing, transport and education and adopt a whole government approach to secure the future health of today’s young people.

The recommendations for action include calls for a consistent approach to discounted and free public transport for students across the UK and a review of the impact the current testing regime in schools has on mental health. The call is led by independent charity the Health Foundation at the conclusion of its major two-year inquiry into young people’s future health.

The charity’s new reportA healthy foundation for the future, published today, summarises the work of the inquiry and introduces the policy analysis that has taken place. It concludes that factors such as: a fragmented approach to spending and investment in young people across multiple government departments; a challenging housing market where more young people are living longer in poor quality, shorter term rental properties and priced out of long term homes; and a job market where young people struggle for secure rewarding work are putting the UK’s 12-24 year-olds at serious risk of ill health later in life.

The inquiry has found that it is harder for today’s young people to access the things necessary for future health – a place to call home, potential for secure and rewarding work, and supportive relationships with their friends, family and community.

The Health Foundation and its nine expert partner organisations, who are publishing detailed analysis alongside the report, recommend that young people’s needs are put at the centre of government policy making. They are proposing a series of wide-ranging policy recommendations to give young people a better start in life including:

  • a government review of the impact of the exam system and the ‘teach to test’ culture on the mental health of young people
  • significant reforms to the private rental sector including developing minimum standards for landlords and greater support for ‘build to rent’ schemes so that young people can put down roots and feel a sense of ‘home’
  • ending the postcode lottery in access to discounted and free transport for students and young people seeking employment.

Detailed policy recommendations for each sector will be published by the expert organisations in the coming weeks.

Jo Bibby, Director of Health at the Health Foundation, commented:

‘Most people wouldn’t automatically think that housing, transport and education policies have much to do with people’s health. However, our inquiry has shown that getting these – and other areas of government policy – right for young people sets them on course for a healthy future. This is why we are recommending changes to ensure young people have somewhere to call home, rewarding work and supportive relationships with friends, families and communities.

‘It is apparent that the arbitrary division of responsibilities between different sectors is letting young people down and jeopardising their long-term health. We must address these divisions and ensure there is a whole government approach to drive us towards a healthy future.’

Evie Basch, 20, from Bristol, took part in the inquiry’s research and is a member of its Young People’s Steering Group. They commented:

‘More young people today are finding themselves stuck in a cycle where they are struggling to find well-paid work, so can’t afford public transport rates to travel to interviews, and can’t afford the current high living costs or the support they need in order to improve their situations as a whole.

‘Throughout the inquiry it became obvious that although we were looking at separate topics – housing, work, transport and mental health support – they were all interlinked with each other. Moving towards an integrated system in terms of health care, benefits, social services and more, should be something to strive towards. It is vital that young people are consulted in decisions that affect their futures. Hopefully the work of the inquiry will start to tackle these interlinking problems.’

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