Blackpool is bringing up a ‘Lost Generation’ of young people whose shrinking life chances in the resort make the era of their parents and grandparents seem a gilded age, according to the findings of an in-depth Gazette investigation published today.
Our reporters spent weeks on the streets talking to scores of local youngsters in an attempt to discover the stark truth about what it’s really like growing up on the breadline in Blackpool.
Some of our findings make grim reading. But they also turn many cliches, often unfairly attached to our young people, on their head.
The basic facts speak for themselves.
The number of jobs in the resort has slumped from almost 50,000 a generation ago to just 38,000 today.
And it is generally accepted that to give our young people a fighting chance Blackpool needs another 10,000 jobs.
Our unemployment levels are the worst in the North West (8th worst in the UK).
We’ve found young girls turning to the sex trade to make ends meet and young men choosing to sell drugs in pubs and clubs across the resort as a viable alternative to signing-on.
On the streets many young people live in fear of violence, often alcohol-fuelled, despite the best efforts of the police.
Of course it’s not all terrible news. Blackpool has thousands of young people it can be deeply proud of.
We peered into some of the darkest corners of the resort and even here we found young people who, despite having lived extremely challenging lives, remain enterprising, enthusiastic and determined to make a successful life for themselves.
Mayor of Blackpool Eddie Collett said: “This is the first generation of kids perhaps in history who expect to have a worse life than their parents. And I think their parents know that too.
“For a few decades in the post war era people had it as good as it was ever going to get, but that’s all gone now.
“It’s not a popular thing to say but a lot of the blame lies with the previous generation simply being greedy and irresponsible.”
Many of the resort’s problems and issues are homegrown, others arrive here from elsewhere.
Young people and families – many with challenging issues – are attracted to the seaside escapism of Blackpool which puts pressure on local resources – the very same services that are at risk due to brutal Government cuts.
Julie Bascombe, chairman of Revoe Area Forum, in Harrison Street, off Central Drive, has battled heroically to both drag her neighbourhood back to the respectability of bygone days and to help the young people of her area.
She said: “I’m not surprised by The Gazette’s findings. A lot of young people around here are really struggling as there’s really not much work and even when they get something the wages are often dreadful.”
Laurance Hancock (pictured), general manager of the Boathouse Project in Lytham Road, South Shore, which helps prepare young Blackpool people for life, said: “I think The Gazette findings are absolutely reflected in what we are seeing.
“I think our young people are really struggling to get on the career ladder. It’s just not as simple as it used to be when we had more industry and you could start at the bottom and work your way up.”
Those tasked with helping our young people say there are options.
In fact, as we will report later this week there could well be a job or opportunity for each and every young person in the resort – if they want it.
Blackpool councillor Paul Galley, who runs a recruitment agency Zulu Recruitment and heads up the Blackpool Conservative Policy Forum, said: “There’s no question that somewhere down the line we are failing our young people. They deserve better.
“The solutions are much simpler than people think but we are simply not equipping our young people well enough and nor are we developing their aspirations.”
The bare statistics are fairly brutal.
In 1997 the average weekly wage in Blackpool was £291. Today it stands at £326.90 – up just 12 percent.
Over the next week we will tell the stories of young people for who life is anything but easy. We will also show how they are trying to escape a worrying cycle of poverty and lack of hope while highlight the work of those who are not giving up on the resort’s Lost Generation.
• 8,300 children in the resort live in poverty
• We are the ninth most deprived local authority
• Deprivation has increased 17 per cent since 2007
• Blackpool has the highest number of 19-year-olds not in education, employment or training
• In many areas more than 50 per cent of family homes have a single parent
• The number of Job Seekers Allowance claimants in Blackpool is 50 per cent higher than the national average
• We top the teen pregnancy chart – six in every 100 babies in Blackpool are born to a mum under the age of 18
• In eight neighbourhoods four in 10 working age people are jobless
• Almost one in six workers has no qualifications
• A Blackpool wage is, on average, £120-per-week lower than the national average
• One in 66 children is in care – the highest rate in the country Sources: Office of National Statistics and Public Health England