My experience of today’s young people is very different from the oft portrayed image of a cosseted, over-protected generation of social media-addicted couch potatoes.
That image is perpetuated by a number of related myths. Two, in particular struck me. The first is the implication that young people lack the drive and enthusiasm to make a difference in society. Most want to make a difference and are looking for opportunities to do so. They run marathons, do ice-bucket challenges and a whole host of other creative activities to raise money for all sorts of charitable causes.
The second is that there are numerous rules and regulations which get in their way and wrap them in cotton wool to ensure they don’t put themselves at any risk of any sort. I wince when people lay the blame (as they sadly often do) at the door of ‘elf ‘n safety’.
Anyone who’s been involved with activities where young people volunteer, as I have, knows what a difference they can make, bringing energy and creativity to the task in hand. And while some volunteering roles carry an element of risk beyond the everyday ones we all live with, a testing environment is often a learning one.
If young people’s enthusiasm sometimes needs close supervision and direction, the opportunities to develop leadership and teamwork skills that social action brings amply repay the investment.
Step Up To Serve’s #iwill campaign is a great way of promoting and recognizing that spirit of enthusiasm to help others and make a difference. HSE is pleased to pledge its support to the campaign and make it clear that our message is ‘You can’.
Let’s get the ‘young people’ conversation onto the other track. The one where we unshackle young talent for the common good and keep a healthy sense of proportion about health and safety - our guidance explains more about this.
I look forward to hearing about lots of #iwill projects where this approach makes a real difference.
Judith Hackitt - HSE Chair