Memorandum submitted by CFE

 

1 CFE are pleased to submit a response to the Children, Schools and Families Committee's Inquiry into young people not in education, employment or training (NEET). Our submission is informed by our research in this area, including Lessons from history: Increasing the number of 16 and 17 year olds in education and training[1] undertaken on behalf of CfBT Education Trust.

2 CFE are research and consultancy specialists in employment and skills. We have been providing our expert services to public and private sector clients for over twelve years. We re-invest our profits to fund innovative research projects and our Policy Insight series.

3 With over 40 dedicated staff, we work on behalf of government departments and agencies, local authorities, colleges, universities and employers. Our experience and unique understanding of the local, regional and national policy landscape enables us to deliver services that are innovative, practical and responsive to the needs of our customers.

Composition of the NEET group

4 The Department for Children, Schools and Families' NEET Statistics Quarterly Brief for November 2009[2] indicates that 1,082,000 young people or 18 per cent of all 16-24 year olds are NEET. However, it is amongst the 18-24 year old age group where the increase is most apparent with the statistics showing a record 933,000 NEET young people compared to 820,000 in the same quarter of last year. This amounts to an additional 113,000 NEETs in this age group. The proportion of 16-18 year old NEETs has similarly increased from 256,000 to 261,000 young people.

5 This significant increase is being attributed to the rise in the youth unemployment rate due to the lack of jobs for school and university leavers in the context of the recession, which is adversely affecting new entrants to the labour market.

6 Such statistics are very useful in tracking the government's progress; however, they mask significant differences in the composition of the NEET group. It is important to remember that NEETs are not a homogenous group, but rather a cohort of young adults who exhibit a wide range of characteristics. While policy in England focuses almost exclusively on tackling the NEET category, policy-makers rarely recognise that this group comprises both those who are defined as unemployed by the International Labour Office (ILO) and economically inactive. The former defines an individual as unemployed if they have looked for work in the last four weeks and are ready for work in the next two weeks.

7 Moreover, within the NEET group, there are identifiable sub-groups. Research undertaken on behalf of the Scottish Executive[3] in 2005 identified these as young care leavers, those with additional support needs, young offenders, drug/substance misusers, low attainment, teenage parents, limiting long-term illness, asylum seekers, emotional and behaviour difficulties, and low parental educational attainment. Furthermore, these sub-groups are not mutually exclusive; NEET young people typically have multiple and complex needs and, therefore, exhibit several of the characteristics outlined. In this context, the NEET group comprise not only young people with identifiable barriers to participation, such as caring responsibilities, but those disadvantaged by parental background, including socio-economic status and highest level of qualification held.

8 Strategies for the identification of young people at risk of falling into the NEET category must, therefore, recognise the diverse nature of this group. Although there has been a proliferation of interest in the characteristics of the NEET group in recent years, the distinctions between the different sub-groups remain largely under-researched. Moreover, the changing composition of this group in the context of rising youth unemployment, which is affecting not only those traditionally at risk of unemployment such as the low skilled but those with higher level qualifications, is unclear. An understanding of the diverse characteristics of this group and their geographic dispersion is essential in order to ensure that specific policy interventions are 'targeted' to address their needs and the barriers that exist.

Raising the participation age

9 The Government is committed to making participation in education and training by 16 and 17 year olds in England compulsory. The centre piece of the 2008 Education and Skills Act is the raising of the participation age (RPA) to 17 in 2013 and 18 in 2015. When the RPA was originally announced in March 2007, the Government estimated that participation by 16 and 17 year olds would rise to around 94 per cent by 2013 and reach close to 100 per cent by 2015. Voluntary interventions could increase participation to 94 per cent but a compulsory framework would be required to move from 94 per cent to close to 100 per cent. Compulsion would take the form of civil sanctions on young people to participate and a statutory entitlement to release for training. Importantly, the 2008 Education and Skills Act refers to 16 and 17 year olds participating in 'accredited activity' which might not necessarily be recognised education and training.

10 In October 2009, CFE published the findings of research to review historical programmes aimed at young people - particularly 16 and 17 year olds - who are not in recognised education or training (NET). At 7 per cent, the majority of this group are NEET, with an additional 4 per cent in jobs without training (JWT) and 3 per cent in employer funded training (EFT). This aim of the research was to prevent youth unemployment in the context of the recession and avoid sanctions by increasing voluntary participation when the participation age is raised in 2013.

11 Under the RPA, 16-17 year olds who are 'not in education and training' will technically be truant as the categories of NEET, JWT and EFT will not be a legal status. The Government will use compulsion (including sanctions) for eligible 16-17 year olds who do not voluntarily participate in education and training.

12 The implications of the RPA for the status of programme led provision offered by many Third Sector organisations is of some concern, as this provision notably supports many vulnerable and disadvantaged young people including those who were NEET. As whilst we acknowledge the importance of protecting the quality of Apprenticeships, in the current recession; some employers are struggling to meet all of the costs of Apprenticeships. This is particularly relevant to NEETs, as these young people represent an increased risk to employers who are reluctant to pay them as employees. Many such 16-17 year olds therefore remain unwaged, supported by the EMA. Our research has demonstrated the value of programme-led work based learning, without the financial risk to the employer. It also led us to conclude that golden hello wage subsidies for employers that recruit 16-17 year olds to Apprenticeships represent a possible aid to the expansion of employer-based Apprenticeships, particularly for vulnerable young people.

13 In this context, the RPA is likely to have an impact on reducing the NEET rate. However, it must be remembered that the proportion of young people who are NEET had remained stubbornly high in recent years despite a plethora of initiatives, including the September Guarantee and New Deal for the Young Unemployed. For the RPA to be effective the Government must continue to identify and address the reasons why young people are NEET; as these will potentially prevail despite a statutory obligation to remain in education or training.

14 Our research summarised the lessons learned from history for designing programmes for engaging 16-17 year olds NETS in employment, education and training, many of which are transferable to the NEET group. The full report can be downloaded here.[4]

 

December 2009



[1] Kewin, J., Tucker, M., Neat, S. & Corney, M. (2009). Lessons from history: Increasing the number of 16 and 17 year olds in education and training. CfBT: Reading. Available from: http://www.cfe.org.uk/uploaded/files/CFE_Lessons%20from%20History.pdf

[2] Department for Children, Schools and Families: NEET Statistics Quarterly Brief November 2009. Available from: http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/STR/ d000890/NEETQtrBriefQ32009.pdf (Accessed 19.11.09)

[3] York Consulting Limited (2005). Literature Review of the NEET group. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive Social Research.

[4] http://www.cfe.org.uk/uploaded/files/CFE_Lessons%20from%20History.pdf