Shrinking the NEET ‘blackspots’
Youth unemployment continues to bedevil. A new report released today shows that the number of 16 to 24 year olds not in education, employment or training (NEET) is unevenly spread throughout the UK, and substantially worse in the North of England. In more than nine cities in England and Wales, 1 in 5 young people are not in education, employment or training: in Grimsby, Doncaster, Warrington and Wigan, the number jumps to 1 in 4 young people.
This is clearly troubling, but what’s worse is that these statistics do not show the number of children and young people who are ‘waiting in the wings’ – at risk of falling into the NEET statistical ‘blackspot’ once they reach 16.
Over the past three years, Demos has partnered with the Private Equity Foundation (PEF) to research interventions that can prevent young people from becoming NEET. Today PEF launch a new video entitled ‘Luke’s World’ (viewable at www.lukesworld.org). The video provides a glimpse into the real life experience of one 11-year old boy, showing the human face behind the headline figures and the otherwise jargon-filled world of policy. Without comprehensive and timely interventions, the NEET ‘blackspots’ identified today will continue to grow.
First, we must begin early. Evidence shows that the early years are the most important in preventing disengagement later in life. Early years interventions also offer the highest return on investment: it’s been estimated that every pound spent on the Every Child a Reader programme saves society between £11 and £17 over the course of a child’s lifetime. Our report Ex Curricula highlights some of the most effective early interventions, both at home and in school.
Second, we have to make sure that young people like Luke are supported during difficult transition periods as they get older. Our report The Forgotten Half suggests that the transition from primary to secondary school can be particularly difficult for some. Mentoring charities like Big Brother Big Sister, who work to support young people aged 8 to11 who experience a variety of risk factors (including poor educational attainment, poor behaviour, and children from single-parent households) can be highly effective in producing positive outcomes for these children.
From secondary school and on, core Maths and English skills, work experience and qualifications up to Level 3 are most important for preparing young people for the labour market. Young people like Luke need high quality advice and guidance much earlier. Some require greater pastoral care. Organisations like Bolton Lads and Girls Club, and personal coaching models being piloted in a number of schools in London under the PEF ‘ThinkForward’ initiative, provide excellent models for guiding the pastoral and social development of young people at risk of disengagement.
Young people should also be encouraged to pursue a wide range of extracurricular and service learning activities, which help build ‘soft’ social skills like teamwork, leadership and commitment. Our report Service Nation looked at the impact that the Government’s National Citizen Service could make for young people at risk of disengaging.
Finally, our most recent report, Youth Labour’s Lost, argues that young people are paying a disproportionate penalty in the current labour market. Government needs to work with businesses to reverse this trend: businesses need to be incentivised (e.g. through waivers for employer national insurance contributions for workers under 22 years of age), and young people need to be properly remunerated (e.g. through raising the minimum wage for 18 to 20 year olds). We also argue that the term NEET is unhelpful and needs to be dropped once the participation age is raised to 18 in 2015.
Our research shows that there are successful interventions that can help reduce the number of young people who become NEET. What’s needed is the will and commitment from Government, charities and the private sector to put theory into practice and tip the balance in favour of a brighter future for the Lukes of the world.