We must tackle the shocking poverty afflicting our young people

When you grow up without opportunities you can feel like the world is against you, other people are more fortunate than you and there is no hope for a better future.

I grew up in an area of Liverpool called West Derby and right now there are a staggering number of young people trapped in poverty in that community alone. About 34% (6,487) of children there are living below the breadline. To put it more bluntly, that’s more than 10 in a school class of 30.

This, however, is not limited to my city. Between 2019 and 2020, an extra 200,000 kids were pushed into poverty in the UK and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been very stark.

More families – including those in work – are struggling to provide for their children and life chances for all these young people are severely limited. Across the UK, data shows there are 4.3 million children growing up trapped in poverty. To hammer home the point again, that’s nine pupils in every class of 30.

These young people are our future and when they grow up devoid of any opportunities in education, employment and life in general it can be so easy to follow the wrong path.

This has to change. We must address this shocking situation to turn around the lives of these young people and improve our society for the future.

These are just some of the reasons why I have helped to launch an initiative called Football For Change. I always thought growing up that if I ever got the chance to help others that would be amazing, and this scheme is initially aiming to raise funds which we will distribute to organisations supporting young people in the most deprived areas with a focus on education, employment and training.

You see so much deprivation in cities like Liverpool with food, shelter, education, even opportunities to play football
We will use people in football and business leaders who have succeeded in the face of adversity as role models to promote social mobility. We will show these Neet [not in education, employment or training] young people how to make a better life for themselves by following the right sort of pathways as others have done, whether that be in football or any other walk of life.

I’m incredibly proud about the support this initiative has already received from football legends and current players but we aren’t going to stop there. It is so important for everyone to get behind this and bring about real positive change for the most deprived young people in our communities.

It truly is needed now more than ever due to the amount of disadvantaged young people who have seen any chance of a better life further torn from their grasp due to the effects of Covid-19.

You can genuinely see so much deprivation in cities like Liverpool, whether that be with food, shelter, education or even opportunities just to play football. Football For Change is all about giving Neet young people a platform to build towards a better future by providing training and education initiatives. As I say, that’s more important than ever given the levels of underachievement in disadvantaged communities and the record number of unemployed young people across the country.

The pandemic has seen many opportunities in education being taken away from young people too. It is sad because a good education and learning new skills are key to building better lives, especially for those facing social and economic disadvantages.

For me personally, to have the platform I’ve got now and be able to reach out to so many people is amazing but it’s important to use that in the right way by getting involved with initiatives like this.

The benefits and impact Football For Change will have on young people is absolutely massive. We’re aiming to help young people of secondary school age who often feel as if they have no hope.

Everyone who has given it their backing so far is huge for us and the initiative is only going to improve the future of our society.