• 47% of young people have learned a new skill or rediscovered an old one during lockdown and 44% have become closer to friends and family
  • 71% are concerned about their academic knowledge and skills worsening and 46% worry about their mental health
  • The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award launches #DofEWithADifference to support young people and encourage participants to continue with their DofE safely

Across the globe, people are adjusting to social distancing and lockdown as a result of Covid-19. Young people at school and those in further and higher education are significantly impacted by cancelled exams and closures.

However, a new survey of 9,913 Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) participants aged 14-25 reveals that, despite the restrictions in place, many young people across the UK are using the time productively to create positive change. The majority (57%) of respondents report to be coping fine or quite well with the loss of their usual routine, with almost half (48%) spending more time than usual being active, 47% using the time to learn a new skill or rediscover an old one, and 44% have become closer to friends and family.

In addition, 25% have felt inspired during lockdown, with many spending the time sharing positive wishes with friends, family and their community. 43% of respondents have sent an encouraging message to someone, almost a quarter (23%) have made a video to make someone smile and a further 25% are more open to speaking with their neighbours.

Ruth Marvel, CEO of the DofE, said: “It’s difficult not to worry about exams and the future, but it’s great to see that young people are using this time to support their community and nurture new or existing skills. We are living through challenging times but it’s inspiring to see young people’s resilience and character shine through.”

The results also show, while 83% are spending more time in front of a screen since lockdown, 34% say social media has a positive impact on their mental health and 44% find the impact neutral.

Despite restrictions in place, additional flexibility added to DofE programmes has seen young people start or continue activities whilst adhering to Government guidelines, during the lockdown. One example of a DofE participant going above and beyond is Philip, aged 22, from Preston, Lancashire. As part of his Gold DofE, Philip volunteers with St John Ambulance, where he has learnt lifesaving first aid and is part of a vital support team at events. He is now using these skills to join the frontline, and has done extra training to be able to support the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.

Philip commented, “The intent is for us to be able to take easier tasks off the hands of the doctors and nurses, so their skills can be used where they are needed more. I started volunteering for St John Ambulance so that I had the skills to help people in their time of need, and volunteering for the NHS at this time is the best way for me to do that. Even if I only manage to help one person, then it will have been worth the effort.”

The DofE’s research also highlights the struggles some young people are facing. 46% of respondents are concerned about how lockdown and social distancing may impact their mental health, 53% worry about the effect on their physical health and fitness, and 71% are concerned it will impact their academic knowledge and skills. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a further 89% report feeling bored.

Since lockdown, the DofE has enhanced its existing flexibility of programmes to ensure the 490,000+ young people actively doing their DofE can safely continue to do so. #DofEWithADifference has been launched to help young people adjust their programmes, provide inspiration for alternative activities, and offer practical advice for participants to continue with, and celebrate, their achievements. The DofE is also working in collaboration with other youth organisations under the #iwill umbrella on a campaign designed to harness young people’s energy, talent and ideas to make a positive difference during this crisis.

Ruth commented:

“At a time when the familiar routines of school and day to day life have been stripped away, the DofE has a crucial role to play in providing young people with continued structure, positive focus and, ways of connecting with their peers and wider communities.

“But it’s increasingly clear that the impact of this crisis on young people is going to last long beyond the immediate lockdown. The DofE will continue to champion young people all across the UK, supporting them to develop the adaptability, resilience and human skills they will need to thrive in the uncertain world that waits for us beyond Covid-19. We will also continue to collaborate with other youth organisations to advocate for the needs of young people and to celebrate the energy, positivity and skills that they have to offer.”