THE BLOG

We Need to Build Bridges Between Generations

05/08/2016 16:14 | Updated 05 August 2016
AntonioGuillem via Getty Images

I'm getting on. Young people are quick to say the older generation don't understand them. I think about this a lot.

I thought about it in the unemployment of the seventies and eighties. When unemployment hit a 50-year high and when there were nine days of riots in Toxteth, an inner city area of Liverpool with high jobless numbers. I thought about it in the downturn of the early nineties, in the soaring youth unemployment following the recession of 2008, and with the riots of 2011.

The generation gap is an open wound which weeps periodically, dependent on the latest national woe.

Today, TV reports echo with young voices claiming the oldies have stolen their future. The young are accused of complacency, of lack of interest and low turnout.

Why didn't more of the younger generation vote? Why didn't they come running out in swathes to put the old and unwise back in their boxes?

For me, this comes down to a more systemic issue of how much we, as a society, value our young people.

In order to take a positive role in their society, young people need to believe they have a voice worth listening to. Sadly, a lot of young people don't. Why don't they? Dismissive parents, bullying, put-downs by any adult in authority. Sometimes, a complete lack of adult authority in their lives.

Whichever way you cut it, the lack of confidence and the damage on a young person's psyche is often down to the older generation. So we can't really blame them for not turning out to vote in droves when we haven't endowed them with the confidence to do so.

I think about this a lot. The other thing I think about is motivation. It's related to confidence, but it's different. While confidence is something instilled in you slowly over time, motivation can be ignited at any point in life; a punch round the face or a sudden surge of fire in the belly at a critical point.

Forty years ago, HRH The Prince of Wales set up a fledgling charity to help those young people who were struggling to find a role in society. He had the confidence to take risks and make a difference and his motivation to continue remains evident still today.

The reason I'm a long-time supporter of The Prince's Trust is that it still addresses the pressing needs of the younger generation. It gives those young people who have had next to no support at home the positive relationships and role models they need to build their confidence. It also has that 'punch' that other charities don't.

The other day, The Prince of Wales met one of his Trust's newest Ambassadors, Major Tim Peake, who has come back to Earth with a bump in one of Bristol's less desirable neighbourhoods, meeting young people facing troubles such as abuse, drug and alcohol addictions, long-term unemployment and mental health problems. Peake is showing them how to make rockets. I imagine this to be a pretty memorable moment for those in the room. Astronauts aren't two a penny, even in 2016, and neither are Princes.

The Trust punches above its weight in other ways too. While we're all moved by charities which change and rescue lives of all kinds, most of us want to see the results and know our investment is being returned with more. Confidence and motivation sound like soft skills until you see their conversion into hard outcomes. Three in four of the young (mainly unemployed and vulnerable) people helped by The Prince's Trust, end up in work, education or training.

Moreover, a new report published by The Prince's Trust to mark its 40th anniversary shows how the charity has returned £1.4 billion to society over the last ten years.

How has it done this? Getting young people off benefits and into jobs. Reducing offending. Helping young people into education. The associated earning potential and the savings to the public purse which come with these things add up over ten years - let alone forty.

I have known The Prince's Trust almost from the beginning and I admire, not only the work it does day in and day out changing so many lives, but also the way it continues to evolve to meet the needs of young disadvantaged people.

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