Thousands of young people ‘off the radar’

A report released yesterday claims local authorities do not know the situation of over 100,000 young people in terms of education, employment and training. Our feature writer, Suzanne Danon, investigates further.

The Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) report revealed that there are 148,000 out of two million 16-18 year olds in England who are not in education, employment or training (NEET).

“Too many young people simply disappear from all the relevant public systems,” explained the Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, chair of PAC. “100,000+ young people are off the radar in that some local authorities do not know whether they are participating in education or training or not.

“If the activity of young people is unknown to the local authorities where they live, they are unlikely to receive targeted help.

The report recognises that the number of NEETs has fallen slightly, a factor it puts down to the law changing to require young people to continue in education or training until at least their 18th birthday.

Margaret Hodge said it was difficult to show that any other interventions, such as careers advice, had been effective.

She added that funding was a real problem; the amount the Government spends on 16-18 years education had fallen by 8% since 2010-2011, and in September it reduced the basic rate of annual funding for an 18 year old from £4,000 to £3,300.

“With scarce resources it is vital to understand whether and which initiatives are most effective and why,” she continued. “Yet, the Department for Education has little understanding of impact of existing initiatives and programmes.”

She praised the Youth Contract, but revealed the programme will end earlier than expected in 2016, and welcomed the increase in longer apprenticeships available to young people, but said smaller businesses must be helped to offer quality apprenticeships too.

“We are also concerned that many local authorities do not help 16-18 year olds with the costs of travelling to school or college, which can lead to some young people being disadvantaged. In 63 local authorities where transport costs are relatively high young people do not get help with these costs, creating a postcode lottery.”

The report has listed a number of recommendations, which Margaret Hodge has urged the Department for Education to take forward, to ensure young people are getting the best start in life.

Report recommendations include:

·         The Department should evaluate the relative effectiveness of its individual initiatives and use the results to shape future decisions about how to engage hard to reach young people.

·         The Department should work ‘urgently’ with local authorities to identify and disseminate good practice on the most effective way to track young people’s education and training activities.

·         The Government needs to learn from the early pilots and trials of its new model for apprenticeships, particularly if they create new barriers that prevent the engagement of SMEs in the scheme. They will need to adjust their plans to have regard to this.

·         The Department should establish how it will build on the positive impacts the Youth Contract has achieved and set out how young people will receive similar help in the future.

·         The Department should examine the impact of variation in local authority transport policies on its objective to increase participation and should review whether and how to intervene where this is a significant barrier to participation.

·         The Department should articulate what actions it will take in future when a school’s careers advice is shown to be poor. It also needs to find ways to encourage schools to work together to provide advice with more employer involvement.

What are your views of the recommendations? What suggestions do you have in order to improve the situation for young people?

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