The aim of the programme is to involve young people who have lived experience in the process, to affect real change. Often, mental health practitioners no not have the ‘required cultural competence’ as the UK Youth statement emphasises. This lack of cultural insight can ‘magnify existing traumas’.

Young Changemakers has been funded with £650,000 by the Lottery to specifically support communities that have been disproportionately hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, by death, inequality, and financial instability.

As well as the People’s Postcode Lottery, Comic Relief is also providing funding so that the project can extend into a third year. Young Changemakers will ‘see the recruitment of a group of 16-25-year-olds in England with a passion for or lived experience of mental health and racial injustice.’

The group will be supervised by eight ‘Co-Producers’ who will act to steer the direction of training and the recruitment of new changemakers.

One Co-Producer, Lola explained why she joined the team and the driving force behind the project as a whole:

“I want to ensure that Black voices are amplified on the topic of our own mental health. This programme is important as it provides young Black people with a chance to discuss and plan actions for improving our own mental health in changing the way services are delivered. With all the cuts to youth services our voices have been lost and disregarded but this programme will provide the space for changemakers to express their concerns and solutions to identify the problems.”

Young people leading the charge

The past year has highlighted numerous inequalities within our society, with all aspects of inequality intersecting at some point with race. From class, gender, sexuality and financial stability to accessibility to green spaces throughout the three national lockdowns, those living in communities where there are a predominant number of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic peoples have been severely impacted.

As well as this, it has been proven in research that young people are also taking the brunt of the pandemic, with the impact from school closures, increased at-home responsibility, less structure in their day to day lives and the ability to form meaningful friendships with people who understand them and relate to them hindered.

The government tells us we need to ‘build back better’ but without innovative, inspiring people on the ground looking to those with real, valuable lived experience, the changes made and new policies made will never fully function to serve those that need this change most. This is where Young Changemakers is changing the narrative.

Ndidi Okezie, CEO of UK Youth spoke about the programme on their website saying: “Over the past year, there has been a real social awakening to the responsibilities we all have, to understand the experiences of others better. Both race and mental health have been firmly placed ‘on the agenda’ of critical issues; in very concrete ways. But there is still inadequate support for young people’s mental health, particularly from communities of colour.”

On the importance of lived experience informing this understanding, Okezie said, “The lived experiences and diverse cultural backgrounds of young people need to inform the services they access. Here’s where the Changemakers are required, to give young people from racialised communities a meaningful seat at the table.”

UK Youth’s Young Changemakers programme stands as a leading example of how organisations can invest in local efforts and charities to enact, powerful and sustainable change from the inside out.

Recruitment for the Young Changemakers programme opened last week on the 7th of September and aims to begin inductions in October. Click here to find out more and how to apply!