• Task Force set up to prevent a Covid crisis lost generation of young people

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has today announced his appointment of Olympian and Commonwealth Gold Medal Winner, Diane Modahl, as Chair of the new Young Person’s Task Force which will develop a Young Person’s Guarantee.

Diane retired from competition in 2002 but she has remained heavily involved in sport and went on to establish the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation alongside her husband, Olympic coach Vicente Modahl, as a way of helping young people from disadvantaged areas in the North West benefit from everything sport can offer; enabling them to make the most of themselves in sport, education and employability.

The Mayor has asked Diane to lead the Young Person’s Task Force’s engagement with young people and to listen to what they need as part of the Covid recovery process.  This will include direct engagement with young people and youth organisations as well as with colleges, training providers and business. The Task Force will work with young people up to 30 years old.

The Young Person’s Guarantee will reflect those concerns and offer a blueprint for how young people can take advantage of the opportunities available to them, and how we can develop new opportunities that meet the wider needs of young people. We don’t want any young person to be left behind and want the guarantee to offer something for everyone.  This could include education, employment, training, apprenticeships, health and well-being and digital inclusion.

The Task Force has been set up in response to the impact the Covid crisis is having on young people. For example, the decision to close schools and colleges as part of the national response to the coronavirus pandemic has already had a significant impact on the lives of thousands of young people across Greater Manchester. However, with all pupils not going back to schools until September now, the consequences on young people’s cognitive development and attainment could be severe, with the most disadvantaged young people likely to fall even further behind.

We also know from the last recession that young people saw their unemployment rate grow three times faster than their older counterparts. While participation rates in education are expected to remain relatively stable, there is strong evidence to suggest that the impact of this crisis will be even greater for young people seeking work, due to the weak economic demand and high competition for available jobs, particularly in sectors that have been the most affected by the lockdown.

Job vacancies are currently believed to have dropped by more than two-thirds, with the fall in apprenticeship vacancies running at 80%. For individuals currently taking an apprenticeship, only 39% were continuing as normal, with 36% having been furloughed and 8% made redundant. A third (31%) of companies have reported that they were likely to hire fewer apprentices over the coming year, or none at all, with notable differentials across firm sizes.

The work of the Task Force will be key to supporting young people during this precarious time and to help ensure their life chances and opportunities are there for them as Greater Manchester adapts to a post-Covid world.

Mayor Andy Burnham said: “These are tough times for everyone but more so for young people who are at risk of being a lost generation if we don’t put in place the support they need now and as we recover from the cororanvirus pandemic. We must make sure the 2020s are not like the 1980s with so many young people left on the scrap heap.

“That’s why I’ve set up this Young Person’s Task Force and I’m delighted that Diane Modahl has agreed to Chair it. Diane is an inspiration as an athlete and through the work of her Foundation which works with disadvantaged young people. She’s ideally placed to work with our young people, educational institutions and businesses to develop a Young Person’s Guarantee.”

I’m delighted to have been asked to Chair the Young Person’s Task Force. I know how hard this health crisis has been for young people who haven’t been able to go back to school and college, who’ve been laid off work or struggling to get apprenticeships and jobs. We must make sure we do everything we can to help them. I’m looking forward to getting out there and talking to young people to find out what their concerns are and what support they need.

Diane Modahl

CEO and co-Founder, Diane Modahl Sports Foundation