Memorandum submitted by the Local Government Association

 

 

1. The cross-party Local Government Association (LGA), published proposals in October (Hidden Talents II - getting the best out of Britain's young people[1]) to help young people who are not in a job, education or training. The recommendations are based on the experience of councils and voluntary bodies in helping young people. The Centre for Social Justice contributed to this report.

 

2. The problem

There are around one million young people who are not employed, in education or training. The recession has caused the numbers to rise, but this is not a new issue. Despite a sustained national and local policy drive it has proven an intractable problem. About 10% of 16-18 year olds are defined as not in education, employment or training at any given time. We have high public spending costs in support for young people. Billions of pounds are spent annually:

 

Training programmes - apprenticeships, Future Jobs Fund

3bn

Benefits - JSA, IS, IB

2bn

Child Benefit (16+)

1.2bn

Education Maintenance Allowance

0.55bn

Connexions

0.5bn

 

2.1 Yet compared to other countries, we do not perform as well. Poland, France, Holland, Germany, Canada and the US all enjoy higher levels of participation. Some of this money could be better spent.

 

2.2 The current nationally-led approach suffers from five main problems:

 

1) It is bureaucratic and confused. Different programmes have very different rules, age boundaries, funding streams and performance management regimes.

2) There are too many national agencies seeking to address the problem. At best, valuable resource is wasted in efforts to co-ordinate. At worse, needs are only partially met or there is massive duplication. The net result is confusing to young people and their families.

3) The strong sub-regional and local features of the labour market are often ignored. Vacancy rates, wage rates, skills-needs and employment rates vary between sub-regions requiring tailored solutions.

4) The language in which policy made is unhelpful. The label 'NEET' conceals a huge diversity of needs and attitudes and is often used to stigmatise young people.

5) The context of family and the influence that peers and the local community have on young people has been overlooked.

 

2.3 The national policy framework has not provided local and personalised solutions to the needs of the family, the community and other local factors. No single agency can address these challenges alone. Councils will continue to work in partnership across the public sector, and with the private and voluntary sectors, but they need to be free of the top heavy national bureaucracy that characterises current arrangements.

 

4. Summary Proposals

Hidden Talents II: getting the best out of Britain's young people sets out in detail a comprehensive package policies designed to support a child at every stage of their journey in to learning and work. Our approach seeks to put young people, their families and the community at the heart of the solution.

 

4.1 To help young people now, we call for:

 

the localisation of the Education Maintenance Allowance so that help for lower income households to support young people in education and training can be targeted more effectively;

the unhelpful distinction between 16-18 year olds and 19-24 year olds to be dismantled to support young people whatever their age;

local discretion - if local people and their elected representatives want it - to flex the rules and levels of benefit payments for under 25s where the costs are contained locally so that the system can respond to local needs;

a 'Total Place' funding regime within which different parts of the public sector pool their budgets to remove duplication and administrative inefficiencies;

future savings from benefit payments to be available to local partnerships to invest resources in proven local solutions;

the abolition of the term NEET (not in employment, education or training) to avoid stigmatising young jobless people

locally accredited programmes of informal learning and volunteering should be expanded and included within the definition of meaningful activity; and

locally-tailored independent information and advice - building on a genuinely localised Connexions service that strikes a proper balance between targeting priority groups and meeting general need.

 

4.2 As a young person's risk of dropping out of learning or work is shaped years before it happens, we recommend a number of policies to act earlier in a child's life, including:

 

the creation of council-commissioned Family Hubs, offering services such as parenting courses, family therapy, debt counselling and family law advice in one location;

using health visitors to offer a wider base of advice and support to all new parents; and

mainstreaming parental and relationship training and advice (e.g. registrars to signpost couples wishing to get married to marriage preparation courses).

 

December 2009



[1] The report is available to download free here http://www.lga.gov.uk/lga/publications/publication-display.do?id=2164401