Hardship among Children and Young People in Jersey

Executive Summary

This report summarises an investigation into the nature and extent of hardship experienced by children and young people in Jersey.  It draws on material collected in a series of five workshops together with individual interviews and written submissions that have, in total, involved almost thirty professionals whose background and experience span early years, statutory and charitable organisations; primary, secondary and tertiary education; social services; public health; employment services. 

Key messages that the investigation highlighted are:

Disappointingly the States of Jersey have not researched the scale and extent of hardship and studies that have been completed address only isolated aspects.  In the absence of suitable data the indirect evidence, including research done in Guernsey suggests that there may something of the order of 1,900 households with one or more young persons experiencing what would widely be regarded as real hardship.

There is a perception is that the number of young people experiencing hardship is increasing.

The causes of hardships faced by Jersey’s young people are many and varied and do not lend themselves to simple solutions.  Circumstance that increase the risk of hardship appear similar to those the UK (unemployment, lone parents, the sick and disabled, and large families).  Aspects that are more prominent in the Island include the influence of inadequate and costly housing and the high cost of living in general and the effects this has on the work/life balance.

The Way Forward

The complex and multi faceted causes of hardship do not admit simple solutions. Some of the risk factors are matters that have to do with economic policies and should be set in the context of a coherent strategy to eradicate poverty, perhaps along the lines being worked out in Guernsey.  Yet there are positive steps that can be taken now that can have an immediate effect on those young people that are currently experiencing hardship.  In particular we have the opportunity to equip those at risk with skills that will allow them to break out of a cycle of poverty that can otherwise be perpetuated from one generation to the next.  We can also take steps to empower parents, kin and friends to create a network of support that can make a decisive difference.  Some of these measures require significant investment; others only require a redirection of existing expenditure or smarter co-ordination among agencies. Examples of the measures that could have a significant impact are:

Expand vocational learning opportunities at secondary level to provide a curriculum that better matches the ability profile of students

Better and earlier support for those who are not getting the most from the learning opportunities

More support and guidance for parents of young children

The scale of the hardship experienced by our young people is ultimately a reflection of the values that underpin our community.  The authors of this report believe that the current situation does not reflect the values held by many Islanders. We therefore hope this report will draw attention to this gap and give added momentum to the on going efforts to eradicate poverty.