Memorandum submitted by David Wreathall


I am co-founder of a small charity which deals with teenagers. Based on a number of encounters with young people and discussions with professionals here in Wiltshire, I believe that:

1. The focus given to vocational skills and knowledge is great, but the core issues that young people are facing are often deeper - e.g. lack of self esteem, motivation, and confidence. If they didn't achieve educationally, school sometimes makes these issues worse. There's an excellent service in Swindon (TIPS - the independent psychological service) which has been a huge help to some NEET young people, but on the whole, there is a lack of investment and lack of capacity in services that address young people's mental readiness to engage fully in society.

2. Schemes that involve paying EMA (for example) may lead to young people having the impression that the world owes them a living - hence the recent Reed report (False Start) which showed that many are unwilling to train on an unpaid basis to gain skills. On the other hand, our experience as a charity shows that there is a significant minority who are willing to volunteer altruistically (these are probably not the ones who will remain NEET for long!).

3. Given the focus on targets, it's perhaps inevitable that there's a culture of "playing the numbers" - the implication being that softer (unmeasurable) outcomes are not valued. Frustration, unhappiness and anger can then lead to other social issues such as binge drinking and violence. Given how crucial "attitude" is, it would be nice to see some focus on that.


December 2009