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Young Scots speak of despair and anger over economic crisis

Young people in Scotland are suffering the impact of the recession more than most, and feel no-one is listening to the anger and despair they feel. These are the findings of a major new report presented today by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).

The report is based on evidence from Scottish CAB clients, and on a survey of 16-25 year olds carried out by CAS last year. The survey allowed young Scots to talk about their economic situation in their own words, which many of them felt they had never been able to do before.

Key findings of the report include:

  • The unemployment rate for young Scots is 20% - more than three times the rate among older workers. The number of 18-24 year olds claiming Jobseekers Allowance increased by 79% in the three years after August 2007.
  • Between 2007 and 2010, the number of young Scots claiming benefits increased by 25%. Around 13% of young people in Scotland claim some sort of benefit. And yet the benefit paid to someone under 25 is often significantly less than that paid to an older person in the same situation.
  • Almost a third of homeless applications made in Scotland are made by a single person under 25. The number of single young people assessed as priority homeless increased by 20% between 2007 and 2009.
  • Debt is one of the most common problems brought to Scottish CAB advisers by young people. In 2009, the average level of debt brought to the CAB by a young person was around £10,000 – this had doubled in the previous 5 years.


The report also includes local breakdowns of the impact of youth unemployment in each of Scotland’s 32 local authorities (see Notes).

Publishing the evidence today, CAS Chief Executive Lucy McTernan said,

“CAB advisers have been reporting for some time that young people were experiencing real problems, so when we began this survey we expected the results to show quite a lot of suffering. But frankly we’ve been taken aback by just how bleak the picture is. There is real anger and despair out there. Young people feel they are suffering the after-shock of a recession that they did nothing to create, and to make matters worse they feel that no-one listens to them or takes them seriously.

“To be young in Scotland today is to worry about whether you will be able to get a job or a home. If you are able to get into higher education, that means you will almost certainly be taking on huge debts. The benefits system meanwhile frankly discriminates against the young. And with the ever-rising price of property and the chronic shortage of affordable homes for rent, young people are becoming trapped in the private rented sector, which reduces their ability to save and invest.

“While these problems can affect all people in society, it is clear from our report that they are hitting young people harder than most. And these problems could dictate the future of this generation and the country they live in. Once a young person has been out of work for a long period, they become less likely to get a job, and they will earn less in any job they do manage to get. And that has a real impact - not just on them and their family, but also on the amount of money they will pay in tax.

“Our message to young Scots is that the CAB movement is listening to them and wants to help them. Every local CAB is equipped to give free, confidential and impartial advice on all of these problems. And our message to government ministers is that they too need to start listening to this generation, and understand that while young people may be the future, their problems are very much the present.”

The ‘Being Young Being Heard’ report is available to dowload in full at the end of this page. The full report is 128 pages long, but a 2-page briefing sheet is also available.

Motions have been lodged this week in support of these propsals, in Holyrood (by Green MSP for Lothian region, Robin Harper) and in the House of Commons (by Scottish Labour MP for Airdrie & Shotts, Pamela Nash – who is one of the youngest MPs in Scotland). The text of both motions is given below.

For more information, or to set up interviews, please contact Tony Hutson on 0131 550 1010 or 07774 751655.