This second briefing paper to be published as part of IPPR' s Condition of Britain programme focusses on young people in their teens and early twenties. This phase of life has become, for many, more difficult and insecure in recent decades, and in this paper we consider the societal shifts that have made today's young people less able to rely on support from stable families, clear routes into work, and opportunities to put down roots by buying a home of their own.

While Britain's young people are, on the whole, optimistic, resourceful and ambitious, their path to adulthood has grown both longer and more insecure. Changes in family life have made it more difficult for young people to develop the character and emotional resilience they need to become happy and productive adults. The labour market and the education and benefits systems are failing a large number of young people who need more meaningful qualifications and greater assistance with securing decent jobs. What's more, all young people deserve to benefit from a sustainable and affordable homeownership, and a better and more secure rental market.

Among the questions this paper asks are:

  • How can we strengthen local institutions that are capable of developing young people's character, maturity and resilience?
  • How can we reform our benefits, job support and training to make sure every young person is learning or earning, and establish stable and coherent vocational options for those not pursuing an academic path?
  • What would be sustainable means of helping young people to realise their aspirations to own their own homes?

Presenting evidence and testimonies from a variety of sources and stakeholders, and this briefing paper offers an overview of the issues facing Britain's young people, and outlines how we need to rethink both what society expects of young people, and what young people should expect of society.

The five briefing papers in this series are brought together with a new introduction by Nick Pearce, Graeme Cooke and Kayte Lawton in the Condition of Britain interim report, published in December 2013.

The Challenge Network - an extract

The Challenge Network's summer programme for 16- and 17-year-olds is designed to bring together young people from different backgrounds within a city or community and help them to overcome segregation and develop new skills. The young people we spoke to were really enjoying taking part in the programme, and were gaining practical skills that would be useful in both work and further study.

'I've gained a lot of confidence. I would never have been able to do a presentation before.'

The programme had also helped them develop emotional maturity and learn how to get on with people from different backgrounds - which they recognised would help them make the leap into adulthood and the world of work.

'Becoming an adult means taking on responsibility, whether you want it or not. Friends, family and programmes like National Citizen Service can help you prepare.'

'You are thrown into a team and you just have to get on with everyone - something you will have to do when you start work.'

'You realise other people are just like you even if they seem different.'

We also talked about their hopes for the future. One major concern was the lack of careers advice and good-quality work experience at school: the young people we spoke to had received very little help from parents or teachers when deciding what courses to take at 14 or 16, or guidance about how to make a start in particular careers.