Memorandum submitted by Youth Access



1. Introduction


1.1 Youth Access is the national membership organisation for young people's information, advice, counselling and support services (YIACS). Our membership comprises individual practitioners, local and national voluntary organisations, as well as some local authority managed provision. YIACS offer a holistic, multi-skilled and flexible approach to the wide range of young people's needs.


1.2 Youth Access promotes young people's access to a national network of YIACS providing flexible help in informal settings and that:

respect the dignity and self-worth of each young person

respect and value individual differences

recognise and are sensitive to the growing autonomy of each young person

respect every young person's right to be a voluntary participant in any helping process

Recognise the potential of each young person.


1.3 Youth Access believes all young people have a right to locally accessible, free, confidential and impartial information, advice, counselling and support. We work in partnership with our members, The National Youth Agency and other organisations to promote the development of high quality, young people-centred services.


1.4 Youth Access has over two hundred member agencies working with thousands of young people across the country every day, dealing with over a million enquires a year on issues as diverse as sexual health, emotional and mental health, relationships, homelessness and benefits.


1.5 Some Youth Access members additionally provide advice on skills, learning and careers and some have Connexions PA's embedded within them.


1.6 Youth Access welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the Select Committee inquiry.




2. Summary of key issues


Current strategies are too careers focussed, neglecting the personal, social and legal barriers which prevent NEETS from engaging with learning and employment.


There is a gulf between need for and provision of targeted advice, counselling and support services for young people.


Mainstream and generic advice and counselling services are not accessible to young people.


The IAG workforce does not in the main have the necessary skills to deal adequately with non-careers issues.


Targeted Youth Support has been described as 'a work in progress' and in many local areas is more aspirational than real.


The focus in funded provision on the age rather than needs of those requiring support means that the needs of older young people are largely ignored.



To address the issues identified by the Select Committee we would state the following:



3. Services and programmes to support those most at risk of becoming NEET and to reduce the numbers and address the needs of those who have become persistently NEET.


3.1 Young people experience a disproportionately large number of social welfare problems; and their problems are relatively more severe and have a greater impact than on the remainder of the population.


3.2 In 2004 for example NEETs accounted for more than a quarter of all young adults who reported social welfare problems, for two-fifths of all problems reported by young adults and for approaching half of those seeking advice. 54% of 18-24-year-old NEETs in the 2004 Civil and Social Justice Survey experienced at least one problem, compared to 31% of non-NEETs. Homelessness and rented housing were the most common problem experienced by NEETs.[1]




3.3 The Legal Services Research Centre confirms that young people experience relatively severe problems: 'results show that young people experience different types of problems compared to all other age groups. The high incidence of homelessness problems indicates that, when they do report problems, the youngest respondents in the LSRC national survey report problems of a severe nature.' (Buck et al.2005).


3.4 The evidence also indicates that NEETs, like other disadvantaged groups, are significantly more likely to worry and suffer undue stress as a consequence of their problems.[2]


3.5 Young people are considerably less likely to obtain professional advice than other age groups; are much more likely to do nothing about obtaining advice; and are more likely to try but fail to get advice.[3] Young people are reluctant to access mainstream advice services established predominantly for the adult population.[4]


3.6 The effects of being NEET on emotional wellbeing and mental health appear to be very significant. New Youth Access research indicates that mental health problems are far more common among 18-24 year old NEETs than those who are not NEET. Stress related illness, loss of confidence and worry, as a result of social welfare problems, are more common among those who are NEET. This suggests that the more NEETs there are, the more mental health problems there will be, requiring access to counselling support and other interventions.[5] Conditions arising from or made worse by economic downturn range from worry to clinical depression and anxiety. Unemployed young people in the 1980s were twice as likely to commit suicide as people who were employed and parasuicidal episodes are up to 25 times more likely for unemployed young men than for those with jobs.[6]


3.7 These factors are often both the consequence of becoming NEET and the reason for remaining persistently NEET. Engagement remains a pipe dream for many when social welfare problems, mental health needs and other support needs seem an insurmountable barrier.


3.8 Notwithstanding Alan Milburn's assertion that Connexions services are too focussed on disadvantaged young people to give adequate access to the



professions for all young people[7], the evidence is clear that only a small minority of Personal Advisers have the sort of in depth knowledge and expertise needed to give the sort of specialist interventions that many NEET young people need. The same is true of those youth workers who work closely with the most vulnerable groups of young people, such as care leavers or those at risk of reoffending.[8] Evidence is also mounting that the service provided by Jobcentre Plus for unemployed young people simply does not meet their needs and they certainly do not begin to deal with the sort of issues set out above.


3.9 YIACS do have a successful track record of delivering these and other vital services to 13-25 year olds in accessible, young person friendly surroundings and with proven positive outcomes. At the same time they are struggling to meet the demand for their services, often without adequate funding and resources.


3.10 Young people are struggling to deal with the problems of economic recession and the stresses and strains these bring. Those in debt, struggling with the benefit system, with housing problems or with emotional and mental health problems become further removed from education, employment and training. The longer this persists the greater that estrangement becomes and gets passed through generations.


3.11 Investment in targeted young people's services, such as YIACS, is not only a highly effective response to the immediate demands of economic recession, but also a way of building in resilience to its longer term consequences and to future downturns.



4. The effectiveness of the Government's NEET strategy.


4.1 The Government's NEET strategy fails to meet the needs of many NEET young people because it is too strongly focussed on learning and it does not consider the needs of older young people.


4.2 The strategy's approach to the personalised needs of young people is through the universal offer of information, advice and guidance (IAG) and more targeted youth support (TYS) for those with 'potential barriers to learning.'


4.3 The recently published IAG strategy, Quality, Choice and Aspiration, is predominantly focussed on careers and learning. Other personal and social needs, which act as barriers to engagement, receive only a brief mention. The


clear risk is that in local Integrated Youth Support Services the term IAG will simply become shorthand for careers and learning IAG at the expense of young people's wider IAG needs.


4.4 There remains a need to ensure that the kinds of personal and social IAG services delivered by Youth Access members, which deal with issues which are barriers to participation, do not get squeezed out in local implementation of this strategy.


4.5 In September 2009, local authorities were asked by the Government to review their TYS provision. This was recognition that local implementation has been patchy and that there has been a failure to embed TYS into youth services in many areas. The Director of the Confederation of Heads of Young People's Services (CHYPS) has described TYS as a 'work in progress' at the time the review was announced. In the experience of many Youth Access members, TYS has proved a very difficult local agenda to engage with.


4.6 The NEET strategy also has the effect of focussing almost all available assistance to 16-18 year olds, leaving vulnerable older young people without any form of help targeted at them. The strategy hopes that it will enable a 'smooth onward transition to further education or employment' after age 18, but this is simply not realistic for very many older young people who, as Youth Access research demonstrates, continue to experience a disproportionate number of social welfare and mental health problems.


4.7 The Social Exclusion Task Force is conducting a study into effective interventions to prevent social exclusion arising from economic downturn and has heard evidence that Jobcentre Plus often does not serve 18-24 year olds well.


4.8 We know also that older young people are reluctant to access and often fall through the net of adult social services and mental health services. It is difficult for providers such as YIACS to meet the needs of this group of young people when so much of their funding is skewed toward the younger age groups.



5. The likely impact of raising the participation age on strategies for addressing the needs of young people not in education, employment or training.


5.1 Raising the participation age is clearly intended to keep 16-18 year olds engaged with learning and seems likely to have a positive effect, but of itself the measure does nothing to address the problems of those who have barriers to their engagement such as homelessness, mental health problems, pregnancy or issues with drugs.


5.2 It would be of grave concern if the focus on engagement with learning were to sideline the vital work in the social, legal and health fields for young people which helps to overcome what can seem to them to be insurmountable barriers to engagement.


5.3 There is a risk that the rise in participation age will, for many young people, simply be delay a transition and postpone the day when they can access help. Given the lack of funding for service provision for 19-24 year olds, the consequences of this could be very serious.



6. The opportunities and future prospects in education, training and employment for 16-18 year olds.


6.1 There is limited specific work around long term effects of previous recessions on young people, but what there is paints a worrying picture, while evidence about the general population offers similarly little encouragement.


6.2 The extended impact of recessions on unemployment levels is highlighted by considering the time taken before the rate of unemployment returns to the rate prevailing at the beginning of each recession:


early 1970s recession - unemployment has never returned to 1.6%

early 1980s recession - unemployment returned to 3.7% after 20 years and two months (in March 2000)

early 1990s recession - unemployment returned to 5.2% after seven

years and one month (in June 1997)[9]


6.3 Evidence also exists on the long term regional effects of recessions. The recession of the early 80s saw persistent unemployment in large northern towns such as Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds, whilst the downturn of the early 90s left long-term unemployment mainly in Cornwall and parts of Staffordshire.[10] 


6.4 The Local Government Association suggests[11] that it could take up to a decade for some parts of the country to recover fully from the current recession.


6.5 Indications for young people are not encouraging. In the 1990s recession employment rates for young people not only fell faster than for any other age group but also recovered more slowly and moderately.[12]



6.6 Previous recessions have left sections of the community, particularly those under 25, excluded from the labour market, risking the creation of 'another lost generation of young people'.[13] Indeed, the growing minority of young people (currently 130,000) that have been out of work for over a year are forecast to treble by December 2011 to reach 350,000[14].


6.7 These troubling forecasts, raising the spectre of a 'lost generation' of young people, many of whom have grown up in workless households, facing years of unemployment and disengagement with the labour market, should be of the gravest concern to policy makers and society at large.



Recommended further reading for Select Committee members:


This response contains footnotes to much useful research, but it will be helpful to list our own relevant work here:


The impact of the recession on young people and on their needs for advice and counselling services

Youth Access Policy Briefing, 2009


The facts about Young People and Recession

By Steve Lee, Youth Access, 2009


Young People's Access to Advice

Youth Access Research Briefing, 2009


Young People's Access to Advice - the Evidence

By James Kenrick, Youth Access 2009


The Advice Needs of Young People

Youth Access Research Briefing, 2009



The Advice Needs of Young People - The Evidence

By James Kenrick, Youth Access 2009


The Youth Advice Workforce: Now and in The Future

Youth Access Policy Briefing, 2009



December 2009

[1] The Advice Needs of Young People - the Evidence. J Kenrick, Youth Access 2009.

[2] ibid

[3] Young People and Civil Justice: Findings from the 2004 English and Welsh Civil and Social Justice Survey, Nigel J. Balmer, Tania Tam & Pascoe Pleasence, LSRC/Youth Access, 2007..

[4] Rights to Access: meeting young people's needs for advice, J. Kenrick, Youth Access, 2002.

[5] Evidence from Youth Access' new research on the links between mental health, social welfare problems and youth will be published later in 2009. Cited in The Impact of the Recession on Young People and their Need for Advice and Counselling Services. Youth Access 2009.

[6] Prof D Dorling, Unemployment and Health, BMJ 2009;338:b829

[7] Unleashing Aspiration: The Final Report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions. 2009.

[8] The Youth Advice Workforce: Now and in the Future. Youth Access 2009

[9] Review of evidence on the impact of economic downturn on disadvantaged groups

Professor Bruce Stafford and Deirdre Duffy - DWP, May 2009

[10] From recession to recovery II: focus on unemployment - LGA, February 2009

[11] Ibid

[12] EHRC op. cit.

[13] LGA op. cit.

[14] Sticking Plaster or Stepping Stone? Centre for Cities June 2009