How young people access services

Kathryn Dingle

We started the current phase of My Best Life, thinking about the issue of young people not being able to access the support and opportunities they need to succeed and technology can help improve this.

Online connectivity is a huge part of our lives, especially during the lockdown. We have the answers to most questions at our fingertips, but many young people struggle to get the support they need. We are interested in exploring how we might make it easier for young people to find and access services. 

By working young people in focus groups and during our remote design sprints, we have explored how young people access services and opportunities. Our learning is below.

The young people mentioned two key routes to accessing services (in the image above!):

  • Speak to someone they trust. This could be a friend, parent or professional (social worker, teacher etc)
  • Search online for relevant services. This is when they didn’t have anyone to ask, didn’t want to ask someone they knew or when the recommendations from others weren’t helpful.
  • Wouldn’t engage with services.Some highlighted that they would look to fix the issue themselves, by making money.

For those who search for services, there are many barriers at each step of the way, which prevent young people from finding an appropriate service. Below is the story that many young people experience when trying to find support. 

When searching for services, I have two main routes to finding information. I either turn to those I trust for their ideas and recommendations, or I search online for ideas. 

However, in the case of asking others, the ideas are mainly limited to their existing knowledge, so they often don’t have the answers I need. Alongside this, the suggestions are often generic rather than tailored. In the case of a professional like a social worker, we also had to be seen within their timetable, rather than when we needed it. Once I have a recommendation, I will look online to find out more about the services and where it is right for me. 

When looking online it can initially feel motivating to be doing something positive for myself, but then I come up against further barriers and I am still unsure which option to pick. Online searches provide a whole range of suggestions, but it is hard to work through them all and get a clear idea of which service is right for me. Most services have generic information, so it is hard to know how each service differs. There is also a lack of information about the location, eligibility criteria, timings and cost etc. This means I need to get in touch directly and wait for a response, before I can know if I can even access the support. This is frustrating and makes me question whether the research is even worth my time

When I do contact services, either through a referral or directly, I often get no acknowledgement or response,and most take a long time to reply. At this point I will either, chase the organisation using a different contact, try another service or give up looking for help all together. I feel uncomfortable ruling out services that may be useful. However,  I can’t spend all my time researching and contacting services. I didn’t want to miss out, but I didn’t want to waste time, especially if we need help urgently.

Sometimes, when I get in touch, the response tells me I have to follow a specific sign up process, like a survey. This is the case even if I have got in contact another way with all the information they need, such as via email. It sucks to repeat this process and have no control over how I engage with them or when I hear from them.  

If there was no acknowledgement or response to my query, I would give up trying to get help and/or try and fix it myself. As someone searching for support I am trying to rule out services online that I don’t like. However, I am unable to find appropriate services online, due to limited information,  too many generic options and a lack of communication from organisations, which makes it hard to see why it is worth my time. Ultimately, this drives me to give up searching and/or try to fix it myself without support.

I wish there was a way of finding out what is out there much more easily, with clear information about who it is for and why it is different to other services.  Recommendations from others would also be a bonus, so that I have all the key information I need to know to decide which option is best for our individual circumstances.

Not everyone would look for services when they are in need of help. Below is the story that many of young people who would not look to access services experience:

I wouldn’t look for services or support.  This is not something that I would ever consider, because services are not made for me. They do not understand me. Many organisations are too white. I want to be seen and heard. Instead, I would look for the best way to get money to fix the issue, whether that was legal or not. If I can’t make money that way, I would turn to older family and friends who do, or look to learn from someone who has already overcome the issue already and might have a way to help me. 

What next?

We have been exploring to resolve some of these barriers through technology. We were really interested in the idea of how we can bring tailored recommendations to young people, so they have suggestions and clear information at their finger tips.

I would love to know if this user story resonates with you or the young people you work with! 

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