Memorandum submitted by Rathbone

 

 

Background

 

Rathbone is a national charity which engaged with over 15,000 young people aged 14 - 24 last year; a significant proportion of whom were NEET before coming to Rathbone.

 

Rathbone has a successful track record of working with disadvantaged and disengaged young people over many years; prior to coming to us most have poor attainment; personal and social barriers to learning; are subject to supervision by the youth justice system; are from care backgrounds and suffer the effects of poverty.

 

Our core programmes of learning are focused on youth training linked to employability and skills. In recent years this has been focused on the Entry to Employment Scheme (E2E) and Apprenticeships.

 

Rathbone has developed strong collaborative relationships with partners across the sectors including: government departments (DCSF, DWP, Home Office, Office of the Third Sector), Youth Justice Board, Ofsted, local authorities, colleges and schools, as well as national and local third sector organisations.

 

Comments

 

Rathbone is pleased to respond to this inquiry and welcomes the opportunity to offer comments and suggestions to help to reduce the number of young people who are NEET. The voluntary sector generally has a good track record in designing and delivering successful and sustainable NEET reduction strategies. Rathbone's work has been particularly fruitful in this area, initially through the Neighbourhood Support Fund (NSF) and more recently working with local authorities and charitable foundations to target and reduce the number of young people who are NEET. We have been very effective at reducing NEET figures with sustainable progressions into employment or continued training or education. Rathbone has been the subject of several DCSF research visits and evaluations focused on our work to reduce young people NEET.

 

There is cross-party support for the benefits the third sector can bring to youth and training provision, and wide recognition of the cost and other delivery advantages of third sector provision. In this very difficult area, the third sector is a unique resource to develop relationships with young people and to respond and provide support in a way that statutory organisations cannot. Young people who are NEET have highly specialist needs. The ability to provide genuine, successful support to them does exist - in large part in national voluntary organisations.

 

We would like to take this opportunity to highlight a serious concern that is felt across the voluntary sector concerning 14 - 19 reforms from next April. The transition of responsibility for funding from the LSC to local authorities is a significant shift in commissioning and delivery, requiring capacity building in both local government and

the third sector. Rathbone, for instance, focuses staff on front line provision, enabled by central commissioning. There is a very real danger that in the transition the

 

voluntary sector will not maintain its current level of participation in NEET reduction work, meaning a 'dip' in the quantity and quality of provision. We are pleased that LSC contracts will be rolled over until April 2011, but during this time serious attention needs to be given to transitional support arrangements for national voluntary organisations to enable them to respond to this national policy shift. Local authorities have support through the React programme.

 

National voluntary organisations will need to restructure and re-build their regional LSC relationships with individual local authorities to maintain the level of provision currently available to young people; this will require additional infrastructure support. Rathbone recommends a phased process, supported over three years. The establishment of a working group, involving national providers, to assess how voluntary organisations should be supported is essential to this process. This could be developed from the existing DCSF third sector advisory group of which Rathbone is a member.

 

Strategies for the identification of young people at risk of falling into NEET category

 

There is a significant amount of evidence to confirm that the earlier intervention for young people at risk of being NEET takes place the more effective it is. This view is supported by the work Rathbone has undertaken with schools and with young people who are at risk of dropping out of school. Interventions after a young person has left school are too late; earlier on they are more disposed to engage with support, advice and guidance. Moreover, it is far easier to re-motivate and encourage a young person when they are in school, before they have become NEET, exposed to risky behaviours or to potential offending lifestyles. It is the view of Rathbone that considerably more work needs to be happening in school in years 9, 10 and intensively in year 11 with those young people identified as being at risk.

 

Early signs of disengagement include low attendance, limited progress and achievement and poor behaviour. Risk factors include: care responsibilities, health and mental health issues, learning disabilities and bullying. Rathbone has developed an in-reach model in schools which allows support to be tailored to individual needs and extended seamlessly into the community for young people at risk.

 

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.

 

Interventions that work with young people who are NEET must also target and work with young people categorised as Unknowns, i.e. known to have left school but cannot be tracked.

 

Rathbone and the Nuffield Foundation recently carried out a year long piece of research, the Engaging Youth Enquiry into young people who are NEET, a copy of our report's Executive Summary is enclosed as an appendix.[1] We interviewed over 500 young people who were NEET. The key finding from this research was that short term interventions that

 

do not lead to further learning or employment were highly demotivating and encourage 'churn' in the NEET statistics (covered in more detail below).

 

Young people who are NEET often have personal characteristics such as poor school achievement, low self esteem and are alienated from mainstream institutions. Interventions with young people who have been out of mainstream education and training for some time need to last for 12 months as a norm. Shorter interventions are simply not long enough for young people in this category to gain the skills and experience necessary for successful progression into sustainable employment.

 

Many young people who are NEET suffer from varied and overlapping disadvantages and lack family support structures. The Engaging Youth Enquiry confirmed the value of a 'significant other', often a youth worker, to provide support, brokerage and transitional support. Rathbone data confirms that successful progression is increased by 50% where this role is provided. The voluntary sector is well placed to offer this 'significant other' support because it offers a different relationship to statutory bodies and a different kind of trust. Furthermore, this support is often cheaper, more flexible and effective at reducing NEET figures.

 

Rathbone has developed a model of street based engagement and support to NEET young people. We know you cannot reach marginalised young people by sending them letters or using compulsion and you have to go out to disengaged young people. Last year Rathbone reached over 4,000 young people through its street based work and was able to successfully re-engage around 70% of these with mainstream programmes. The Rathbone model provides intensive support early on which tapers off quickly once the young person has re-engaged with training provision - responsive to need and providing long-term consistent support.

 

The effectiveness of the Government's NEET strategy

 

The number of young people aged 16-18 who are NEET has remained fairly consistent at around 10% for the last 20 years despite numerous initiatives to reduce this number. Small decreases in 16-18s have been outweighed by increases to the 18-24 cohort.

 

We know from our records that significantly high numbers of young people joining Rathbone have been on short programmes several times. We know from our own work and that of other providers that the issue of young people 'churning' in and out of NEET status - the so called revolving door syndrome - is a serious concern and may actually be doing more damage than good to young people. They have their hopes and expectations raised, only to be dashed as they come to the end of yet another short course and fall back into NEET status.

 

We believe the issue is as much about the sustainability of interventions as it is about getting the overall number of young people who are NEET down at any one time.

 

Rathbone sees the current trend of interventions which typically give young people

six months training e.g. the Future Jobs Fund, as 'churning' the NEET numbers rather than reducing them.

 

Data mechanisms should be put in place in the NEET statistics to record whether young people are re-joining programmes or are new entrants. The omission of this information is a serious weakness in understanding the issue of 'churn' and in

 

designing strategies for permanently reducing NEET figures and creating sustainable models that take young people through to employment.

 

The likely impact of Raising the Participation Age on strategies for addressing the needs of young people NEET.

 

Rathbone has concerns about Raising the Participation Age. The patterns of behaviour that we see early on (pre-16 and pre-14) which lead to NEET status are not removed by existing compulsion to age 16.There is a long standing problem of non attendance of young people of statutory school age; even with current sanctions to fine parents and the issuing of enforcement notices. It therefore seems unlikely that these young people will attend provision after 16 - unless the offer is substantially different.

 

The Engaging Youth Enquiry has confirmed that a majority of NEET young people simply want paid work for financial support and the status they associate with it and do not want further education and training. Many have pressures on them to make a financial contribution to the family income and many will have different needs, such as being parents or carers. Work provides a good learning environment, as long as it is properly regulated employment.

 

Rathbone recommends that a youth training scheme similar to that of the Youth Training Scheme (YTS) or the Community Programme (CP) of the 1980s is incorporated within the 14-19 offer. The key success factors of these previous initiatives were: an offer of 12 months' placement as the norm and longer if the young person needed it; a non means tested allowance; and training based on real work experience. An offer which is in an employment growth area would be particularly beneficial - for instance environmental or green projects which young people are particularly keen to engage with and which provide transferable skills to the market place. We believe a properly constructed form of work creation would be a cost effective way of reducing NEET sustainably and will be cheaper that the estimated cost of Raising the Participation Age which appears focused on increased provision in colleges and school 6th forms.

 

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

 

Rathbone suggests that the prospects for young people leaving school would be improved if there was a broader offer, deregulating the curriculum to make it more flexible for those not inclined to traditional routes. The new diplomas do promote work related learning but critically are not work based , i.e. to learn on the job; to be able to complete practical tasks as opposed to theoretical understanding in the classroom. This makes learning real to young people who want to work.

 

We are concerned that the 14-19 curriculum reform strategy will again miss out those young people for whom an ongoing engagement with learning is most problematic. There is as yet no clear policy vision as to how a young person with complex learning and support needs will be enabled to develop a meaningful, sustained and fully funded learning pathway up to the age of 18. Much of the curriculum and qualifications reform process is focused on work-related rather than work-based learning. Other than apprenticeships, there is a distinct lack of policy engagement with the challenge of enabling young people both to progress into employment and to receive access to accredited and well-supported learning. We are extremely disappointed that the recent ASCL Bill has effectively removed work-based programme-led apprenticeships from the range of routes available to more vulnerable young people and see therefore the reform of the statutory framework applying to apprenticeships as representing a really significant reduction in opportunity for those young people to whom organisations such as Rathbone is most committed. With respect to the curriculum reform proposals relating to Foundation Learning, we are also very concerned that these will lead to an overly simplistic qualifications-driven approach to funding learning programmes which will be far from adequate in meeting the learning and support needs of our cohort of young people in the round. Again, whilst Entry to Employment is a far from perfect programme, the migration to Foundation Learning may well result in a real reduction in learning opportunities.

 

We believe that the is a need to really strengthen and further develop properly funded and structured work based learning opportunities and to considerably strengthen employers' commitment to and engagement with the education of young people who are not going to take up an apprenticeship route. The casualisation of the labour market is of growing concern to Rathbone; we have found a huge increase in young people working casually through agencies in poorly regulated employment e.g. contract cleaning and factory work. A young person who is entering work for the first time and needs to develop work skills and an understanding of what is expected of them is not able to gain the right experience from this kind of work. It is also difficult for the young person to gain stability if their employment is ad hoc.

 

This is a worrying development, exacerbated by fewer employment opportunities because of competition from migrant workers, who may have a better education and stronger skills and, in the current employment market, graduates seeking employment.

 

December 2009



[1] Not published on the Committee website.