This snapshot report presents how COVID-19 is affecting young people in Victoria. For a snapshot of how it affects the Victorian youth sector, go here.
COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting young people’s lives, with restrictions on socialising, education, employment and access to youth services taking a real toll.
A survey conducted by Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) of young people in Victoria aged 12 – 25 found that the biggest impact self-reported by young people is a lack of social interaction.
“Young people are feeling disconnected and socially isolated from their peers, despite most being connected online,” says Katherine Ellis, YACVic CEO.
“With education significantly disrupted and rapidly transitioning to digital technology, and shutdowns and job losses across the hospitality, retail, arts and recreation sectors, young people don’t have the usual opportunities to spend quality time with their peers.”
According to the Grattan Institute, at least 30% of all young workers aged 15 - 25 are likely to lose their jobs because of COVID-19, and many are also concerned about their eligibility for income support payments due to being part of an increasingly casualised workforce.
Case study: Kira
Kira Todd is 21 year old student Bachelor of Arts student at University of Melbourne who has lost her job and had her studies disrupted.
“I no longer have an income. I had to resign from my part-time job because they couldn’t hold my position while I was away on an overseas exchange program. But after moving overseas for just over a month, due to COVID-19 I had to suddenly cancel those plans and return back to Australia.
“I planned to resume part-time/casual work upon returning, but given the current situation around business closures, it looks like I will be out of work for a while. I’ve been looking around for other retail and hospitality jobs, but there’s been so few available.
“It was already that hard to get a job before, let alone now when no places are open. Most jobs out there now aren’t feasible with the timetable of students.
“I am anxious because I don't know how long I will be without an income, particularly as I'm not eligible to receive government support. I am worried that it will be much harder for me to become financially independent again.”
Social isolation, loss of employment, and uncertainty around education are also putting pressure on young people’s mental wellbeing. Lost income also has flow on effects such as the ability to pay rent, and afford other essentials such as food and communications.
“With three quarters of all lifetime cases of mental ill-health presenting before the age of 25, it is critical to provide proactive, accessible, effective mental health support to young people affected by COVID-19 disruption,” says Ms Ellis.
Case study: Lilli-Rose
Lilli-Rose is a 16 year old student who is also part of her local youth council.
“My mental health has been challenging, particularly with social isolation from school and not being able to see my friends, as well as some of my own family.
“It’s been challenging adapting school to online, especially with VCE, to learn how to balance time and energy without a routine timetable. If I wake up in the morning and I’m not feeling motivated, I know I won’t get enough work done.
“There’s support from teachers, but sometimes I don’t feel well enough mentally to do the work. I don’t feel that I have the same support I usually would at school because I don’t have the face to face contact with my teachers; they can’t pick up on my body language and non-verbal signs.
“Getting work done is difficult. Sometimes we have to wait for 30 minutes for feedback where we’d typically get feedback immediately, so by the time I ask a question at the start of the lesson, I’ll only get feedback at the end of the session. Sometime the internet plays up too.
“With family, I have been moving between my parents’ houses every 2-3 weeks, whereas I would normally see each of them a couple of times each week.”
Lilli-Rose is connected to mental health services, but has found online appointments difficult.
“The face-to-face sitting in a room and body language is important. Sometimes you can mask what you feel and it’s hard to read that over a screen,” says Lilli-Rose.
“Privacy has also been tricky. I have my own study and I can shut the door, but anyone walking by could definitely hear the conversation, so it is difficult to maintain confidentiality and privacy.”
While recent Government announcements of greater investment in mental health, telehealth and family violence services are welcome, YACVic is calling on Governments to work directly with young people on the COVID-19 crisis recovery, to find and implement long term solutions as well as address the immediate crisis.
“None of the issues presented by young people are really new, but it is clear that COVID-19 disruption and isolation are exacerbating existing issues for young people, including mental ill-health, unemployment, family violence, discrimination and homelessness,” says Ms Ellis.
“In addition, young people are currently making major sacrifices in their lives, education and employment for the wellbeing of the community – they are missing out on rites of passage that can never be revisited. They are also the ones who will be most impacted by the long-term consequences of the pandemic, especially in terms of jobs and careers.
“So, decisions about the recovery, and the future, should be made with young people at the table – they have a right to that,” says Ms Ellis.
On a more positive note, despite the many challenges they are facing, young people are also stepping up to lead and adapt in the new environment in innovative ways.
“Student groups at university have moved their social activities online, so young people can still drop in on social sessions or a creative arts collective to connect,” says Kira.
“We’re finding new ways to hang out and communicating in different ways. People beyond my friendship group who I never knew are reaching out and speaking to me which has been amazing. I think COVID-19 will help change how we communicate and make friends forever,” says Lilli-Rose.
Thomas Feng, YACVic Media and Communications Manager, 0431285275. Katherine Ellis, YACVic CEO is available for further comment.
Lilli-Rose and Kira are also available for further interviews/contact via Thomas Feng.
About Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic)
Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) is the peak body and leading advocate for young people aged 12–25 and the youth sector in Victoria. Established in 1960, YACVic advocates for the rights of young people in Victoria to ensure they are active, visible and valued in their communities.