The coronavirus pandemic has hit young people across the UK hard.
Exams have been cancelled and plans with friends put on hold. Some are trying their best to work from a kitchen table in a flat-share, or have even been made redundant over Zoom.
Recent BBC research found that people aged 16-25 were more than twice as likely as older workers to have lost their job, while six in 10 saw their earnings fall.
So what did they think of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Spending Review on Wednesday?
‘I’m even more worried about the future’
Melissa Aitchison is a 22-year-old student at Nottingham University. She started studying her Master’s degree to boost her qualifications.
“I knew that looking for a job as a new graduate is hard, so I decided to carry on studying to improve my chances.”
image captionA lot of student Melissa’s friends who graduated last year are struggling to find work
Melissa described his message as “bleak” for young people. “I don’t think he did anything to reassure me in any way… I was really worried about future job prospects, now even more so.”
Melissa’s currently financing her studies by waitressing in a restaurant. She’s been furloughed from her part-time job during lockdown, and says without that money she wouldn’t have been able to afford her Master’s degree.
As a 22-year-old, she will just miss out on the extension of the £8.91-per-hour National Living Wage to 23-year-olds from April. Previously, it only applied to those aged 25 and over.
“That extra money would definitely have made a difference to me,” she says, adding that she felt “overlooked” as a student working in the hospitality industry.
‘Pay freeze makes me feel undervalued’
Robert is a 25-year-old civil servant and representative for the PCS Union.
“It made me feel deeply disappointed. I was hoping for a pay rise actually, not a pay cut.
“[Civil servants] have spearheaded the response to the pandemic and worked tirelessly to deliver Brexit. We’ve stepped up and delivered… and I’d like to be recognised for that.”
Having worked for various government departments since graduating from university a few years ago, he says he feels “let down”.
“Now is the time to spend to revive the economy, not reduce people’s spending power.”
Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday that he couldn’t justify an “across the board” pay rise, when many workers in the private sector had seen their pay and hours cut because of Covid.
For Robert though, the chancellor’s Spending Review will “make life harder”, he says. Living in London where renting with friends can be expensive, “a pay freeze doesn’t help”.
‘We need to recognise the value of start-ups’
For entrepreneur Sonny Drinkwater, 2020 has brought challenges he had never anticipated.
The 22-year-old from Maidstone set up the healthy snack company Snackcess in June, along with two student friends Joshua Barley and Kieran Fitzgerald.
“We decided we’d launch something and try it out because of how dire the job market was. We were struggling with job applications during our final year, and we thought well, why not?”
Working out of Sonny’s parents’ garage at first, they found it hard to get things off the ground.
Eventually, sales picked up and the small firm recently made its first hire to help with logistics and packing boxes – an unemployed friend also struggling to find work.
As a younger entrepreneur, he welcomed the government’s announcement of an extra £56.5m for the British Business Bank’s Start-Up Loans scheme next year. In fact, he had just finished the firm’s application to the scheme on Wednesday morning – just before the chancellor’s speech.
“It’s really pleasing there might be a bit more funding or mentoring to help us and others get going,” he says.
“Times of crisis can be a good time to invest in start-ups and companies that are tackling new problems.”
‘It gave me a bit of confidence’
Beef farmer and cattle breeder Matt Rollason had been hoping that Mr Sunak would have more to say on post-Brexit plans.
image captionMatt says extra funding is crucial for farmers like himself
While he acknowledges that the government has promised to spend cash on things like customs or border checks, “it would have been nice to have seen that backed up”.
Despite that, Matthew is feeling “cautiously optimistic” following Wednesday’s big speech.
He points to two “big wins” for the agricultural sector and its transition to net zero carbon emissions: A new UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which will replace cash from the EU for big infrastructure projects in rural areas, as well as the launch of a National Infrastructure Bank.
“I was quite pleased to see climate change and the role agriculture can play being addressed.
“They’ve put something down on paper to actually get this going… a solution rather than just warm words.”
He says it will give young farmers a bit of confidence for the future, despite the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
“Working in agriculture is a valuable and really interesting career path. It shows young people like me that it’s worth investing in and a future worth fighting for.”