Councils can make a difference when it comes to helping young people at risk of dropping out of school or work.
Latest official UK figures put the number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) at 757,000.
This figure has changed little over the past three years, with the percentage NEET figure for 16 to 24-year-olds relatively flat since 2017 – showing that the system is not working for all young people. Too many are falling between the gaps and need better support.
A new local approach is needed to tackle complex issues and support young people to effectively transition into education or employment.
In addition, 40 per cent of care leavers aged 19 to 21 are NEET, compared with 13 per cent for this age group overall. Councils as corporate parents for these young people have clear responsibilities to support them to achieve good outcomes.
In our recent report, ‘Re-thinking youth participation’ (see first 653), the LGA called for additional powers and resources to enable councils and combined authorities to take a more strategic approach to coordinating and commissioning provision, and developing appropriate education, employment and training offers.
Many councils are already addressing the issues facing their young people locally.
For example, Derbyshire County Council has developed the ‘I-Step up Re-engagement Programme’ to address a gap in transition support, and provide wraparound provision for young people identified at risk of becoming NEET at age 16 or 18 (Year 11 and Year 13 at school).
“Too many are falling between the gaps and need better support”
Its analysis highlighted that there is little or no government funding for programmes that re-engage young people in education, training or employment between Year 11 and the start of Year 12.
Derbyshire’s programme meets the needs of young people who are in this situation, but also those who are in danger of becoming NEET at the end of Year 11 or 13.
The programme is delivered over a three- to four-week period, with young people required to attend for three days each week for about five hours per day.
One of its unique features is that it is tailored to the needs of the cohort and individuals attending the course. Tutors help the participants address the wider issues that are impacting on the prospect of them remaining NEET – for example, family, substance misuse, physical/medical conditions, mental health problems, and engaging in anti-social behaviour. The course develops a range of employability skills, with work experience days or an employer challenge.
Since the start of the programme, 83 young people have taken part, with more than three-quarters making positive progress.
Derbyshire County Council estimates that between 2015 and 2018, the I-Step up programme generated £523,804 of social value, with a total investment of around £117,000 – giving a return of £4.50 for every £1 of investment.
Evidence shows that, in uncertain times, employers take fewer risks on young people with less experience. Young people already find it difficult to uncover, understand and access the broad range of interventions that are available and, as a result, many struggle to access jobs that reflect their interests and capabilities.
This can be particularly challenging for vulnerable young people facing disadvantage, and better careers advice and guidance is needed. Councils and combined authorities have already shown how they can respond rapidly to local needs by forging partnerships, adapting provision and delivering advice and support to young people in need. They now need the power and resources to do more.