Three ways the 2021 budget can improve the lives of girls and young women
Invest in girls' futures
Autumn means crunchy leaves, cosy evenings, and the UK government announcing their 2021 budget.
The UK Government budget 2021 launches on October 27. We’re encouraging the government to invest in girls’ futures to lessen the impact of the pandemic on wellbeing. The budget tells everyone what the government is planning to spend money on over the next year and we want the people in power to acknowledge the importance of youth services for children and young people, prioritise the safety of girls and young women and invest in youth wellbeing.
Every October, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who’s in charge of the government’s money, announces the budget for the year.
Our 2021 Girls’ Attitudes Survey found an alarming decline in girls’ happiness and wellbeing. But we know that investment and support from the Government can change this. We want to see the government spend money in three main areas to improve girls’ happiness, safety and opportunities.
Invest in youth services
We’re really happy to see so many girls, young women and volunteers returning to face-to-face guiding. Guiding is a brilliant way to improve wellbeing and confidence, as well as learn new skills and reduce loneliness. Youth activities can really help children and young people catch up on the opportunities they might have missed out on during lockdowns.
The government has promised to introduce a £500 million Youth Investment Fund to help with the cost of guiding and many other youth services. We want them to stay true to this promise. We also want to see the Government prioritise inclusion and reaching every young person and helping more people volunteer.
This spending could really help many youth services and help take financial pressure off local governments, education, health and criminal justice systems.
Our research shows that 58% of girls and young women who are aged between 11 and 21 think that being part of a youth group helps them to develop new skills. Youth groups need to be invested in; they have such a big on learning skills outside of school and on and future job opportunities.
Invest in girls’ safety
Sexual harassment and online abuse are unacceptable. We want to see the government take action to end sexual harassment and online harm. From unwanted attention and comments to physical harassment and abuse, our research shows harassment happening everywhere in the country, and in all areas of girls and young women’s lives.
And it’s happening not just in public places, but in schools and online as well. We believe the key to ending all forms of violence against women and girls is teaching all children and young people about respect, gender equality, consent and healthy relationships. We want to see the chancellor use the 2021 budget to help schools take a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment and effectively teach Relationship, Health and Sex Education (RHSE.) We also want online platforms to take responsibility and for there to be consequences for those that fail to tackle online harm. And we want there to be effective ways for girls and young women to report harm and get support.
‘We don’t want to be groped in school; catcalled walking to school or called sexist names daily. I don’t want to read out the whole list of what girls have gone through and continue to go through because no clear action has been taken... It’s time this changes! It’s time we work together. It’s time we end sexual harassment.’ - Girlguiding Advocate
Invest in girls’ wellbeing
More needs to be done to support girls with their mental health and wellbeing. Our research shows that girls and young women face extra pressures and that their wellbeing has been declining consistently for over a decade.
This trend has accelerated in the past three years and has been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic. Our 2021 Girls’ Attitudes Survey found that 63% of girls and young women aged between seven and 21 say they’re happy most of time compared to 81% in 2018. 67% of girls and young women aged between 7 and 21 feel more sad, anxious or worried than before the pandemic.
‘The pandemic has made me feel insecure and very self-conscious.’ - Girl aged between 11 and 13, Girls' Attitudes Survey 2021
It’s essential that the government invests in mental health and wellbeing support as we recover from Covid-19. This means that policy around children and young people’s mental health needs to consider the particular pressures faced by girls and young women, including online harm, sexual harassment and appearance pressure.
Every day, we see the impact the pandemic has had on girls and young women across the UK. We know that this week’s budget presents a real opportunity to improve the lives of girls and young women. The Chancellor needs to invest in their happiness, skills and confidence.
Read our full submission to the government’s spending review consultation here. Share your thoughts using the hashtag #Budget2021!