NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service) has responded to The Commission on Young Lives’ call for evidence. WE have submitted views on topics including mental health, advocacy, youth justice, education and corporate responsibility.  

What is The Commission on Young Lives?

The Commission on Young Lives is an independent group established to create a new national system that promotes and improves opportunities for vulnerable young people. The main aim of the commission is to support these young people in order to help them succeed in life.

This commission launched in September 2021 and is chaired by Anne Longfield CBE, the former Children’s Commissioner for England. It is hosted by the Oasis Charitable Trust, who have experience working within communities to empower families and vulnerable children.

What is NYAS’ Response to The Commission on Young Lives?

Our response to The Commission on Young Lives focused on a variety of factors that can influence the lives of vulnerable young people. Below, we have highlighted some of the core elements of our response. Much of our evidence links with current NYAS campaigns for change.

Prioritise Mental Health

NYAS have asked the commission to consider mental health with the utmost importance when analysing its findings. Mental health is a key priority for care-experienced children and young people. Therefore, their calls for adequate support must be met proactively.  

As corporate parents, local authorities must be more accountable when care-experienced children and young people are not getting the right support or are disproportionately experiencing a mental health crisis. In our submission, we referred to our Looked After Minds campaign. We included practical recommendations to move away from a mental health system that requires its patients to be in crisis in order to access support. Instead, we suggest moving towards a system that is truly proactive rather than reactive. 

Protect Vulnerable Young People From Crime

In order to protect young people from being victims of criminal exploitation, we have referred the commission to our Trouble with the Law campaign. Using this campaign, we highlight the key areas of support required for children at risk of crime involvement. We know that many children entering care are victims of abuse or neglect, but before long they can also find themselves treated like criminals.  

Care-experienced children and young people should not be disadvantaged by their care status. Our recommendations focus on keeping young people out of the criminal justice system. By keeping vulnerable children away from crime, we can prevent their future opportunities from being written off at such an early age, and break the unfortunate cycle often caused by vulnerability.

NYAS also encouraged the commission to continue challenging the disproportionate criminalisation of children from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. At the moment, these demographics currently describe half of the individuals in youth custody. This evaluation would be incomplete without the consideration of ethnicity. 

We hope that the commission will take these recommendations on board to improve opportunities for vulnerable young people. NYAS look forward to engaging with The Commission on Young Lives during future projects and research.