Excluded young people suffer poor health

The buzz word ‘social exclusion’ was introduced by
the Labour government when it came into power in 1997 with a raft
of initiatives aimed at turning people’s lives around. The
expression epitomises the very clients social care professionals
have spent decades working with: those at risk from a combination
of linked problems, writes Anabel Unity

Experiencing social exclusion is difficult enough for anyone;
none more so than vulnerable young people who do not have the
necessary support networks or who lack the appropriate coping

A new report published by the Children’s Society and
written by Professor Maddy Monaghan and Dr Bob Broad from De
Montfort University’s children and families research unit,
highlights the effect social exclusion has on the well-being and
health of young people.

‘Talking Sense: Messages from young people facing social
exclusion about their health and well-being’ is based on a two-year
study started in 2000.

The team interviewed 102 young people aged between 16 and 25, 57
of whom had spent some time in local authority care and three
quarters were taken into care aged nine or younger. Just under half
(41) of the young people think being in care damaged them mentally,
physically or ‘in every way’.

Of the 68 female and 34 male respondents, 72 say their family
relationships make them “feel ill” because they were at
best negative, and at worst abusive or violent. When asked
‘how is your health?’, 67 told researchers it is
‘good’ or ‘ok’ with the remaining saying it
is ‘not good’ or ‘poor’.  In contrast, when
asked if they feel healthy, 50 said they did not.

All the young people say stress is the biggest factor affecting
their emotional well-being, with 36 citing their lack of money as
the main cause of their stress, 22 blaming their family
relationships and 15 saying it is their partner’s

Experiences of stress lead to a variety of negative effects on
the respondents, with some young people reporting they feel
depressed and lonely, other saying they feel angry and frustrated
and a few admitting to having tried to kill themselves.

The young people employ different mechanisms to cope with
stress, with 75 smoking every day, 70 drinking alcohol at least
once a week and 44 describing themselves as binge drinkers. Just
under half (49) young people say they take illegal drugs and 33 say
they do so every day.

Most of the young people using drugs feel doing so has a
positive effect on their health and well-being. The most popular
drug the respondents use is cannabis.

Coming into contact with social care services impact the young
people in different ways. Some told researchers the approach
adopted by their social worker or foster carer helped them survive
the trauma of being in care while others say they felt even more

The report says: “Perhaps the most consistent message the
young people gave about the health and social care services with
which they had been in contact was that, whenever they felt they
had been labelled a ‘problem teenager’ or had been
greeted with scepticism or with patronising attitudes, they had
seldom received the help they needed”.


• Professionals working with young people should
explicitly state their confidentiality criteria
• Young people should be given training in how to deal with
stress and anger, preferably from a young age
• Provide drop-in and one-stop-shop types of help and advice
• Provide appropriate peer education and support groups
• Provide a mentor who had been through similar
• Target services tailored to the specific characteristics of
different groups
• Better training in life skills and social skills for those
young people leaving care
• More comprehensive and reliable support services for care
• Early intervention to improve the self-esteem and coping
strategies of vulnerable young people may help to reduce the
incidence of teenage pregnancy
• New or improved good health programme for boys and young
men covering emotional literacy, emotional, mental, physical and
sexual health, parenting skills and sustaining positive

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