Memorandum submitted by Action for Children


1. Executive Summary


Action for Children believes that we have an obligation to provide appropriate opportunities and support for all young people especially the most vulnerable, who are disengaged from education, employment, training.


Action for children has created innovative services that provide solutions to young people not engaging with education, employment and training. Our services formally and informally support young people in a way that is neither alienating nor stigmatising.


Government must allow time for new approaches to bed in, they must be synchronised across Whitehall and seek cross party support to allow them the time to succeed in the longer term.


The most vulnerable young people need extra support during this recession so that they are equipped to take advantage of future opportunities.


2. Action for Children[1]


2.1 Action for Children is committed to seeing all young people fulfil their potential; this is not just about attaining certain grades but setting and achieving their own personal goals.


2.2 Our services therefore:

support young people to stay in or enter education, employment or training;

work with young people who are: disabled[2], homeless, leaving care, have caring responsibilities, and who are at risk of, or who have, offended;

help young people to become independent;

enable young people to be active citizens in their own communities.


2.3 To do this, we;

deliver innovative services that engage young people who find other services alienating;

involve young people in the design, delivery and evaluation of our services;

draw on knowledge and expertise from across the public and voluntary sector.

2.4 In all of our work with children and young people we seek to open up opportunities, overcome barriers and build resilience - employability is a key aspect of this approach.


2.5 Our vision is to support children, young people and their families throughout their childhood. We provide universal services such as, Sure Start Children's Centres (SSCC) to improve the aspirations of young parents for their own children. We also provide targeted support where we for example we, work to reducing offending behaviour. Our services take a holistic approach and address wider problems including participation in education, employment and training. We do this by meeting the needs of a young person; this is not based upon their age but the stage that they are at in their development.[3]


3 Strategies for the identification of young people at risk of falling into the not in education, employment or training category


3.1 Understanding who is at risk and intervening early


3.1.1 In order to target support at the right children and young people it is important to understand how and why children and young people become disengaged with education, employment and training.


3.1.2 The recent report, Backing the Future[4], conducted in partnership between Action for Children and nef (the new economics foundation) investigated the cost effectiveness of both preventative and early intervention services for children and young people that would both save money on dealing with social problems, and deliver wider benefits to society.


3.1.3 We understand that for all young people, adolescence is a time of great change. Most will make the transition to successful adulthood with help and support from family and friends. But some young people struggle to make sense of the physical and environmental changes they face. Action for Children's 'Growing up'[5] publication further demonstrates that recognising who are at risk is crucial in assisting services to plan ahead and intervene at the earliest point.


3.1.4 Research suggests that young people who don't receive ongoing support to engage with employment, training or education during the transition are more likely to end up long-term unemployed, to live on a low income, to become teenage parents, and to suffer poor mental and physical health.[6]



3.1.5 Although there are well documented reasons why some children and young people become disengaged from education for example children in the care system, it is crucial that services can also take account of more intangible reasons for an early withdrawal from school. For instance, there is strong evidence that children identified as 'vulnerable' who were thriving at primary school are often derailed by the transition to secondary school.


3.1.6 Action for Children's research involving our services demonstrates how interest and enthusiasm for school wanes following the transition: the 'Who's there for you' survey[7] of more than 500 young people aged 6-25 found that just 4% of 6-10 year olds report having problems at school. But by 11-13 that has shot up to 13%, and remains high until the end of compulsory schooling at 16.


3.1.7 200 17-25 year olds were included in the survey and it highlighted nearly a third (29%) had experienced problems with school or college life, and just over a fifth (21%) had had difficulties with reading and writing. While half (50%) had had difficulties in finding a job.


3.1.8 When asked what should be done to help children and young people, the top

priorities for young people between 17 and 25 were:

more things for young people to do when they are not at school, college or work (49%)

more help with getting and keeping a job or earning money (35%)

more help with doing well at school or college (17%)

more help with reading and writing (14%)


3.1.9 Asked if they could pick one thing to make a big difference to their life, the answers were:

doing well at school or getting a good job (20%)

having someone I can trust to help me (11%)

being able to take care of myself and be more independent (9%)

getting more help and encouragement from people around me (6%)



3.1.10 We have a wealth of knowledge from our work with children at risk of or who have disengaged from education, employment and training. Our role is one of enabling these young people to firstly develop aspirations for their future and then to realise their aspirations. One young person who is supported by an Action for Children residential home told us about her hopes for the future:


Danielle 15 - studying for her exams


'The most important thing for me when I leave care is paying my own way and going to college to get as many qualifications as I can. I know you need education to get anywhere in life - employers can have their pick of people, so the more qualifications you have, the more chance you have to get a decent job. Hopefully I'll be a social worker. I've lived it - I've had the experience of being in care.


I want the satisfaction of doing a job. Being on benefits must be pretty crap because you don't have money to spend on nice clothes, nice furniture or a nice house. I don't want a life where I'm scrimping just to get by.


The support I receive in care has made a difference to me because the people at the home always talk about your future. It means the plan for your future is made in advance. People staying at home just do what they want really - their mums are more tolerant for them to just sit back.


If I had kids, I'd want them to have a decent life - of course I'd want them to work for what they get, but I'd want them have the same opportunities as everyone else.'



3.2 Role of schools


3.2.1 Schools and extended schools have a role to keep young people engaged, through a variety of means including a curriculum that has the flexibility to appeal to all young people, offer a diverse range of learning opportunities as well as work experience and careers advice. Rewards within these settings must also not be focused on attaining certain grades but the young person setting and achieving their own personal goals.


3.2.2 Schools are not responsible for this issue alone. It is essential that they work in partnership with other providers and make links to specialist local services where there are concerns.


3.2.3 We are concerned that commissioning within schools remains under-developed. Schools need to be more confident in commissioning services but must have expertise available to them to commission from a range of organisations. This diversity of providers can often better meet the specific needs of children and young people, especially those from vulnerable groups. Commissioning across a local area or school cluster group would optimise expertise in local areas and would enable provisions to be put in place where there might be rare or very specialised needs.


3.3 Information, advice and guidance (IAG)


3.3.1 Action for Children is committed to seeing all young people fulfil their potential; this does not necessarily mean attaining certain grades, but setting and achieving their own personal goals. To reach and inspire young people not in education, employment and training, IAG services need to be wider than schools and colleges, and careers and learning. It needs to encompass informal settings and personal and social IAG services. In addition, to fully support young people, the IAG workforce needs to be skilled and have up-to-date knowledge of the latest opportunities for them.


3.4 Use of technology


3.4.1 Action for Children is committed to using technology to enable young people to develop essential skills for life. DCSF's IAG strategy recognises the need to use a range of information channels, including social media, to reach young people. This is particularly important for those young people not in formal education and the need extends into wider engagement around young people participating in training, for example completing a course on the internet.


3.4.2 Every effort must be made to establish continuity of education for children and young people. Technology can play an important part, such as online forms and resources.


3.5 Engaging the most vulnerable children and young people


3.5.1 It is essential to identify those at risk through services outside of the education system, such as children's centres or youth centres.


3.5.2 As with the school workforce, people working with children and young people in these settings need appropriate training to be able to identify and support young people at risk of leaving education, employment or training. Voluntary and community sector organisations often work with the most vulnerable children and young people and it is vital that the workforce has the skills, knowledge and confidence to help young people stay in employment, education or training. In particular, volunteers need to have access to flexible training opportunities, which identify options available to young people, as many can only attend evening or weekend sessions.


3.5.3 An example of how a service can help is provided below.




Ryan feels that his problems started when he was around 10 years old - his first school exclusion was year 6 and was as a result of his constant swearing and generally disruptive behaviour. As Ryan moved into his teenage years, he also started getting into trouble with the police and this impacted upon his relationship with his family - particularly his mother.


Initially Ryan's family received support via the Children's Centre but for the last 18 months Ryan has been attending Millom Youth Service. In recent months Ryan has changed his peer group and close friends and he enjoys a positive social life. He is involved in lots of positive activities such as Friday night football.


"The Friday night football got my picture in the paper - it's the first time anyone in my family has been in the paper for anything good!"


"The youth centre put on a cooking course which I did because I want to be a chef, I am going to get an OCN certificate for doing it. Since doing the volunteering and the cooking, I've decided to go back to school - I'm now in year 10. I've not been excluded, there's been no trouble with the police, I am happier, I am treated better by my parents and I also treat other people better now.........I don't want to get into trouble with the police anymore and I want to concentrate on my GCSE's. I really feel that if Martin, my support worker hadn't come along I don't where I would be, he treated me as a person - he was spot on"


Accreditation was very important to Ryan as this enabled him to recognise his own achievements, and to demonstrate these to others. Ryan now has a part-time job in the kitchen at a local pub where he is building on his cooking skills and learning to adapt to the world of work.


4.         Services and programmes to support those most at risk of becoming "not in employment, education or training", and to reduce the numbers and address the needs of those who have become persistently "not in employment, education or training"


4.1 Action for Children believes we have an obligation to provide appropriate opportunities and support for the most vulnerable young people, who are most disengaged from education, employment, training. We work in partnership with local agencies to address the problem of youth unemployment. Detailed below are a number of our services which provide innovative practice.


4.2 Action Training Norfolk is successful because it embodies effective inter-agency working. We provide training to young people who have failed to make the progression from school to employment, training or further education.


This support is not just about education but is enhanced by a range of supporting services that have a strong focus on preventing young people becoming not in employment, education or training. Specific work includes: a pre Entry 2 Employment (e2e) course; a Beyond the Bump programme to support teenage parents back into education, employment or training; an avoiding Permanent Exclusions Project; support to the Attendance and Behaviour Unit and P-Zone which is a 6th form support programme at a local school


4.3 During 2008 our e2e service (rated highly by Ofsted) was successful in moving 62% of young people engaged into education, employment and training, making a significant contribution to Norfolk's overall employment statistic. Norfolk's not in education, employment or training population stood at 5.2% in 2008 which is lower than the national average rate of 6.9% and the regional average of 6.6%


4.4       Action for Children's Gateshead Mentoring service works with young people to increase self-esteem, confidence and their sense of wellbeing. The service encourages the mentees' increased participation in social networks and group and community activities aiming to improve the mentee's educational aspirations and achievements.



4.5 The overall aims of the Renfrewshire Moving On project is to reduce the risk of re-offending, minimise the likelihood of young people returning to custody and enable young people to get back into education. The service provides voluntary support for young people aged 16-21 who are in custody or have recently left custody and recognises the close link between engagement and offending behaviour. A recent evaluation showed high engagement rates (88 per cent) achieved by establishing a rapport with young people within the prisons and continuing this back into the community.  This leads to the development of trusting and respectful relationships.


4.6 Action for Children's Guernsey Youth Housing Service is an excellent example of the importance of integrated services. Through co-operative working in an innovative inter-agency environment we provide support to young people involved with the Health and Social Services Department, Children and Young People's Services who need to prepare to move on from care or welfare supervision towards achieving a level of independence within the community. Many of our contacts will arise from self referrals who have heard by "word of mouth" of our existence. The project also receives enquiries and referrals through various routes from other agencies, family members, and friends on behalf of potential service users.


4.7 From 2001 - 2009 this service has supported over 1000 individual young people, aged 16-25 years who are/have been school excluded; have been involved in the criminal justice system, or have a history of unemployment and may be at risk of homelessness or drink/drug abuse.  We provide support to help young people reduce or manage their level of risk and become more "work ready". We provide an eight week personal development programme which includes how to establish routine, make healthy lifestyle choices, gain first aid, food hygiene and other qualifications.


4.8 We also offer an ongoing Intensive Support Worker after the initial programme is complete to continue to work on the skills and attributes needed to successfully move into employment. This post was created as a direct result of service user feedback and their requirement for ongoing support after the initial eight weeks.


4.9 Action for Children also plays a key role in providing supported apprenticeships through programmes designed to increase work experience and provide accreditation on key skills. The concept of a supported apprenticeship is not seen much outside the third sector.


4.10 For example, Action for Children Scotland's innovative Youthbuild model offers training and employment opportunities in the construction industry for vulnerable young people. Scotland has one of the highest rates in Europe of unemployment among young people.


4.11 An independent evaluation of the Youthbuild programme (2007) highlighted the successes of the Youthbuild programme. These findings include:


Up to 80 per cent success rate across the three projects for helping young people move into employment following their involvement in the programme

high completion rates for the programme, with 32 of the 43 young people who entered the programme completing and moving into either construction or some other form of employment

considerable savings of working with this cohort - for example, the annual cost for a male in a youth offenders' institution is estimated at 47,000


5 The effectiveness of the Government's not in employment, education or training strategy


5.1 Impact of recession


5.1.1 The most vulnerable young people need extra support during this recession so that they are equipped to take advantage of future opportunities - at this time more must be done to raise their aspirations to succeed in life. As we highlighted with our Youth Build service example, the concept of a supported apprenticeship is not seen much outside the third sector.


5.1.2 Youth unemployment has hit an all time high although we recognise it's a complex picture. DCSF's Children's Plan - Two Years On report highlights that, "The proportion of 16 to 17-year-olds participating in learning reached a record high at the end of 2008, and those who were not in education, employment or training) fell for the third consecutive year, and at 16 reached the lowest level for more than a decade." However, it is significant that latest overall figures show unemployment for 16- to 18-year-olds has topped a million and stands at 11.9%, up 1.3%[8] from the same period last year. This situation for many young people is very distressing and the opportunities that they thought would be available to them at the time they entered the job market are not there or competition is so fierce that many young people are competing for the same jobs. It is right for Government to support these young people.


5.1.3 As a charity, we work with the most vulnerable, those who don't see employment as a right or an aspiration. We are therefore concerned their voices will become lost as the impact of the recession plays out across the labour market. We know therefore that it is the most vulnerable who will be more adversely affected by the recession.


5.2 Policy churn


5.2.1 From our experience we know the importance of the government allowing new approaches the opportunity to 'bed in' and conversely the disruption that policy churn creates. This process may transcend the length of a parliament and therefore require cross party commitment to ensure their real impact reaches fruition. Our report As long as it takes: a new politics for children highlighted that in an environment of policy churn where there is a volume of change it is not a healthy way of "developing and maintaining support for some of the most vulnerable and marginalised children and families"[9]


5.2.2 With this in mind, recent years have seen significant change in youth policy and legislation and this has shaped the development and delivery of services to young people across the board. This work has occurred across Whitehall with work streams to address the needs of young people as either a homogenous or as distinct groups such as care leavers.


5.3 Joined up Government


5.3.1 Although cross departmental initiatives have been a strength of this government, there are still examples of policy decisions made by one department conflicting with that of another. For example, Action for Children's Network Brynmawr in Wales supports young people aged 16-19 years who are homeless or living independently from their families. One of the main aims of the project is to support them into work-based training. However those young people who access this training receive overall less income than those who remain unemployed. This acts as a huge disincentive for those vulnerable young people who are unable to live at home with family to gain access to training.


6.0 Submissions from other organisations - As a member of the Transition Information Network, Action for Children endorses their submission with the Special Educational Needs Consortium which identifies barriers to employment, education and training for young people with SEN and disabilities.


December 2009

[1] Action for Children works with 156,000 children, young people and their families at around 420 UK projects. For 140 years, it has been supporting some of the most vulnerable people in the country, helping them transform their lives and realise their potential. We provide a range of high-quality, flexible and innovative services that meet the complex and diverse needs of children and young people across the UK

[2] Young people with learning difficulties and disabilities are twice as likely to be NEET as those without - DCSF, Reducing the proportion of 16-18 year olds NEET: The Strategy, 2009


[3] Centre for Social Justice and LGA (2009) hidden talents II supports this argument and states that 'there is mounting evidence that young people continue to mature for longer than was originally thought... and that people's passage into adulthood is likely to be more prolonged and unpredictable'.

[4] Backing the Future. Action for Children and nef (the new economics foundation), 2009

[5] Growing Up, Action for Children 2009

[6] Young People Leaving Care: A Study of Costs and Outcomes, a report to the Department for Education & Skills, Social Work Research and Development Unit, University of York, 2006

[7] Action for Children surveyed more than 200 17-25 year olds involved with our services. All figures are rounded to the nearest percent. The sample consisted of: 71% female, 29% male, 50% in England, 16% in Wales, 34% in Scotland, and 0.5% in Northern Ireland. The ethnic make up was: White British: 90.5% (180); Black African: 3.0% (6); Black Caribbean: 1.5% (3); Chinese: 1.0% (2); Black British: 0.5% (1); 'Other': 3.5% (7).

[8] Labour Force survey, November 2009

[9] As long as it takes: a new politics for children, Action for Children , 2008