Memorandum submitted by Barnardo's

 

 

Introduction

1 Barnardo's works directly with over 100,000 children, young people and their families every year. We run over 400 projects across the UK, including counselling for children who have been abused, fostering and adoption services, vocational training and disability services. About two-thirds of our services involve education or training, including:

Vocational training and work-based learning for 14-19 year olds, including Entry to Employment (E2E) programmes and apprenticeships

Specialist support services for vulnerable young people including teenage mothers, young people with mental health difficulties, homeless young people

Alternative provision for young people excluded or at risk of exclusion

Special schools for children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties

Children's centres and parenting programmes.

 

2 Every Barnardo's project is different but each believes that every child deserves the best start in life, no matter who they are, what they have done or what they have been through. We use the knowledge gained from our direct work with children and young people to campaign for improvements in policy and practice.

 

3 This submission draws extensively on our frontline work with young people who are (or until recently were) not in education, employment or training (NEET); and the findings of in-depth research carried out during 2008-09 with 75 young people across 19 of our services, published in our Second Chances report[1].

 

4 We would be delighted to provide further information on these issues, or to facilitate visits to relevant Barnardo's education and training services for Committee members.

 

1. Summary

1.1 Barnardo's is most concerned about vulnerable and disadvantaged young people who are most at risk of becoming 'long-term' NEET, because they face complex barriers to participation

1.2 Barnardo's would contend that the challenge is not so much to identify those at risk of becoming NEET - which is often just a transient statistical status - but to identify and support those who are having difficulties in school, helping them to get back on track in learning and to address their wider needs, as soon as possible.

1.3 The NEET strategy is only a small part of the jigsaw, which we are supportive of, in so far as it goes. Barnardo's would prefer to see a clear focus on ensuring all young people have opportunities to participate in meaningful education or training or a job with training, than on reducing NEETs i.e. on ensuring all young people are constructively engaged in learning of some sort (including learning in the workplace), rather than a focus on what they are not doing.

1.4 Priorities within the wider programme of reform should include:

o 'Re-engagement provision': to engage hard to reach young people and support their transition back to education, training or into work

o Alternative and vocational pathways should be available in every area as a positive 14-19 option

o A growth in work-based learning and vocational opportunities (including apprenticeships) for 14-19 year olds, with more supported opportunities for young people working at entry level or level one.

1.5 Barnardo's supports the raising of the participation age (RPA) in education or training to 18, because it represents an important opportunity to improve provision for the many young people who leave school at 16 with few skills and poor long-term prospects. However, 'more of the same' will not work for young people already disengaged and alienated by 11 years of compulsory schooling. We hope that RPA will provide the impetus for developing integrated approaches to support young people with specific barriers back to education, training and into employment.

 

1.6 Further research is needed to identify 'what works' in supporting participation for young people who face 'super-barriers' - such as young offenders, homeless young people and those with severe mental health difficulties whose education is often put on hold indefinitely.

 

1.7 Since the onset of the recession, Barnardo's has been seeking to draw attention to plight of 16 and 17 year olds trapped in unemployment. Experience from previous recessions shows that long spells of unemployment can do lasting damage to a young person's future job and earning prospects.

 

1.8 There is an urgent need for greater investment in expanding work-based learning (WBL), including apprenticeships and Entry to Employment (E2E) programmes. Regrettably, apprenticeships remain beyond the reach of many Barnardo's service users, a situation compounded by Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (ASCL). This Act failed to recognise the valuable role that work-based Programme Led Apprenticeships (PLAs) have played in enabling disadvantaged young people, well suited to apprenticeship training and capable of success, into apprenticeships.

 

1.9 Widening access to apprenticeships is an urgent challenge which needs to be addressed. Women, Black and minority ethnic (BME) groups and disabled people are all under-represented. A failure to protect and build on the best of work-based programme-led apprenticeships will perpetuate such inequalities.


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

 

2.1 The NEET population is diverse and subject to much 'churn' - most young people do not spend long periods being NEET, but move rapidly between short courses, work placements and jobs, with some periods of inactivity. The Government estimates that only 1% of 16-18 year olds are 'long-term' NEET, meaning that they are NEET at each of the three surveys at age 16, 17 and 18.[2]

 

2.2 Barnardo's is most concerned about vulnerable and disadvantaged young people who are most at risk of becoming long-term NEET, because they face complex barriers to participation. Groups who are over-represented in the NEET population and whom Barnardo's work with extensively include:

o Teenage mothers - an estimated 20,000 are NEET

o Looked after children and care leavers

o Young people with mental health difficulties whose education has been disrupted by illness and time in hospital

o Young people with learning difficulties and disabilities - more than twice as likely to be NEET

o Homeless young people and those in temporary/insecure housing

 

2.3 In addition to young people facing specific barriers, like the groups highlighted above, our research points to larger numbers of disadvantaged young people who become NEET at 16 because of poor experiences in school - characterised by poor relationships with teachers, boredom, bullying and an escalating cycle of challenging behaviour, truancy and exclusion. The young people interviewed for Barnardo's Second Chances research (2009) felt that they would have done better in school if lessons had been more relevant to future work prospects; if they had more support and encouragement; and if they had been subjected to less bullying and fewer rules.

 

2.4 White working class boys are over-represented in this group[3]. The Longitudinal Survey of Young People in Education also points to a strong correlation with parental income and employment status; young people are more likely to become NEET at 16 if:

o They come from a low income household - children on free school meals are more than twice as likely to be NEET at 16

o Their parents are unemployed, work in a 'lower' or 'routine' profession, or did not achieve A level equivalent qualifications[4]

Improving outcomes for young people at risk of becoming NEET has a key role to play in breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

 

2.5 Barnardo's would contend that the challenge is not so much to identify those at risk of becoming NEET - which is often just a transient statistical status - but to identify and support those who are having difficulties in school, helping them to get back on track in learning and to address their wider needs, as soon as possible.

 

2.6 Relevant policies, which all have a contribution to make to reducing the risk of becoming NEET (which can be considered preventive strategies) include:

o Roll-out of personal tutors - but they must support children across all Every Child Matters outcomes, not just academic work[5]

o Roll-out of catch-up tuition in English and maths[6]

o Strengthened focus on emotional well-being:

o Statutory Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) including sex and relationships education through the current Children, Schools and Families Bill

o Extending preventive mental health services to schools and promoting mental health through the SEAL programme (Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning)

o Improving support for young people with Special Educational Needs, including implementation of the Lamb Review.[7]

 

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 Barnardo's provides two main types of service for young people who are - or have recently been - NEET:

o Support services for vulnerable young people facing barriers to participation - such as young mothers, homeless young people, care leavers and young people with mental health problems

o Vocational training and work-based learning services; working in partnership with local employers, schools, colleges and other charities, we train and support over 2,200 young people every year. We work across the UK in sectors including construction, catering and hospitality, vehicle maintenance, business administration, horticulture, retail, warehousing and hair and beauty therapy.

 

Support service - The Base in Whitley Bay is a Barnardo's service for socially excluded and unemployed young people. It offers a wide range of drop-in services providing information, advice and support covering issues as diverse as housing difficulties, mental health and legal problems. The Base offers an E2E (Entry to Employment) programme providing flexible learning for the most vulnerable people.

 

Michelle says: 'If it wasn't for The Base helping me, if it wasn't for my key worker sticking with me, I don't know where I would be. It's taken me three years to understand that when they were trying to tell me about life, they were trying to help me... I can see it now, it's like the penny has dropped. I was so off the rails. I've now got a job on the rigs, I earn mega bucks!'

 

Vocational training - Dr B's Restaurant and Coffee Shop in Belfast offers a real work environment for young people aged 16 to 24, many of whom have learning disabilities. Young people can gain NVQs in catering over one to two years, after which many move on to permanent employment. The restaurant is open every weekday to the public and can be booked out for dinner.

 

Dr B's also runs a successful outside catering service allowing young people to experience a variety of different work environments before completing their course. As well as being able to gain qualifications that will help them to find work, Dr B's provides an environment where young people can build their self-confidence and social skills whilst working, where necessary, on literacy and numeracy skills as well.

 

Ciaran who attends Dr B's says: '...the staff really helped me understand a lot of things, not just about food. I learned about being a good team member, being reliable, keeping myself safe, improving my reading and writing. There was so much more to learn than I thought.'

 

3.2 Both types of Barnardo's service combine elements of education and support. Some young people need much more individual attention to build their confidence and develop the interpersonal and life skills that they will need to take the next steps towards more formal learning or work; others cope well with just a little advice and support from project workers.

 

3.4 Underpinning these services is a set of values and approaches, which are key to our success in helping young people to turn their lives around. These are:

o Flexibility - including 'open door' enrolment policies, frequent start dates and allowing more time to complete a qualification

o Positive relationships with project workers, working individually and in small groups to support and encourage young people

o Belief - building on young people's strengths and 'sticking with them' even when they behave badly, make mistakes or think about giving up


4. The effectiveness of the Government's NEET strategy

 

4.1 The NEET strategy is only a small part of the jigsaw, which we are supportive of, in so far as it goes. Barnardo's would prefer to see a clear focus on ensuring all young people have opportunities to participate in meaningful education or training or a job with training, than on reducing NEETs i.e. on ensuring all young people are constructively engaged in learning of some sort (including learning in the workplace), rather than a focus on what they are not doing.

 

4.2 Following this logic, we believe that the wider programme of reform - to ensure that every young person has a meaningful learning offer, extending apprenticeships, rolling out diplomas, further developing the foundation learning tier etc - is more significant (in terms of moving towards the Government's aim of full participation of 16-18 year olds by 2015) than the NEET strategy. Based on the experience of our services users, priorities within the wider programme of reform should include:

o 'Re-engagement provision': to engage hard to reach young people and support their transition back to education, training or into work. To this end, local authorities should plan for an expansion in provision with the following characteristics:

o A high ratio of staff to young people to enable 1-1 support from key workers and small group activities

o Outreach capacity to engage young people and sustain their participation

o Flexibility - for example, allowing more time to complete modules and occasional breaks in participation if crises occur

o Informal learning opportunities to develop new skills and build confidence

o Access to targeted support for young people who face specific barriers

o Alternative and vocational pathways should be available in every area as a positive 14-19 option, recognising that a sizeable proportion of young people (perhaps as many as one in five) are not engaged by traditional academic learning in a classroom environment, so fail to realise their potential in school.

o The Government should drive a growth in work-based learning and vocational opportunities (including apprenticeships) for 14-19 year olds, with more supported opportunities for young people working at entry level or level one. In particular, action is needed to generate more work-based learning opportunities in areas of economic decline. The current economic downturn makes this task all the more urgent, and we welcome the recent Employment White Paper's proposals for 16 and 17 year olds[8].

 


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 Barnardo's supports the raising of the participation age (RPA) in education or training to 18, because it represents an important opportunity to improve provision for the many young people who leave school at 16 with few skills and poor long-term prospects. Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are among the least likely to stay on, perpetuating the cycle of poverty from one generation to the next. These young people often lack the skills and confidence needed to impress employers so rapidly find themselves trapped in unemployment.

 

5.2 However, 'more of the same' will not work for young people already disengaged and alienated by 11 years of compulsory schooling. Our research found that disengagement tended to be a cumulative process, starting with difficulties in primary school and becoming entrenched by negative experiences in secondary school. Young people who lacked confidence or struggled in class seemed to have lost their way in large secondary schools, where their difficulties were either not noticed or insufficiently addressed. A narrow emphasis on academic achievement and gaining A* to C grades at GCSE left many convinced they were failures. These young people felt they would have done better at school if lessons had been more relevant to future work prospects; if they had more support and encouragement; and if they had been subjected to less bullying and fewer rules.

 

5.3 Barnardo's would like to see a broader learning offer from the age of 14 to motivate and re-engage young people at risk of becoming NEET (see para 4.2). Expanding work-based learning and employment opportunities (with the requisite level of training) will be critical to engage and sustain the motivation of many young people currently lost to the education system at 16 (or earlier).

 

5.4 From our frontline work, we are also aware of the thousands of young people who are NEET because they face specific barriers, including: teenage parents; looked after children and care leavers; young people with mental health difficulties whose education has been disrupted by illness and time in hospital; young people with learning difficulties and disabilities; and homeless young people and those in temporary/insecure housing. We hope that RPA will provide the impetus for developing integrated approaches to supporting these young people back to education, training and into employment.

 

5.5 Lastly, further research is needed to identify 'what works' in supporting participation for young people who face 'super-barriers' - such as young offenders, homeless young people and those with severe mental health difficulties whose education is often put on hold indefinitely.

 


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

 

6.1 Since the onset of the recession, Barnardo's has been seeking to draw attention to plight of 16 and 17 year olds trapped in unemployment. The policy assumption is that they should be in education or training, but the reality is that many want to work or continue learning in the workplace, and this may be a good option for them in the short to medium term.

 

6.2 By 2013, young people in England will be required to stay on in education or training until age 17, and by 2015 until age 18; a job with the requisite level of training (equivalent to one day a week) will remain an option. Until very recently, employment has remained a neglected pathway in RPA policy, with unemployed 16 and 17 year olds appearing to fall between the two stools of DWP and DCSF responsibility. Barnardo's therefore welcomes recent announcements in the Employment White Paper[9] which includes several measures for 16 and 17 year olds, as we have been calling for.[10]

 

6.3 Experience from previous recessions shows that long spells of unemployment can do lasting damage to a young person's future job and earning prospects. Youth unemployment of more than six months has been shown to leave an enduring 'wage scar' equivalent to a reduction in wages of 23% at age 33 and 15% at age 42[11]. This increased chance of lower wages will not only have an effect on the current generation of young people, but also on their families. The Government has pledged to end child poverty by 2020, yet a failure to tackle soaring youth unemployment now is likely to result in more children growing up in poverty, as today's unsupported 16 and 17 year olds become tomorrow's unemployed parents.

 

6.4 There is also an urgent need for greater investment in expanding work-based learning (WBL), including apprenticeships and Entry to Employment (E2E) programmes. By the end of 2008, 90,000 fewer 16-17 year olds were on work-based routes than in 1995.[12] In this context, we welcome the recent announcement of 'golden hellos' for employers taking on apprentices in this age group.

 

6.5 Regrettably, apprenticeships remain beyond the reach of many Barnardo's service users, a situation compounded by Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (ASCL). This Act failed to recognise the valuable role that work-based Programme Led Apprenticeships (PLAs) have played in enabling disadvantaged young people, well suited to apprenticeship training and capable of success, into apprenticeships.

 

6.6 On work-based PLAs, apprentices spend nearly all of their time in the workplace, typically four out of five days. They do the same work, follow the same programme and gain the same qualifications as employed apprentices, but they are unwaged and most are supported through the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). They may undertake several placements rather than spending all their time with one employer, gaining wider experience and usually being employed towards the end of their programme. Charities like Barnardo's and Rathbone support these young people, so that they have the chance to show employers just what they are capable of, as employers will often not take on the financial risk of employing someone from a chaotic background.

 

6.7 The Government made an amendment to the ASCL Act 2009 to allow a period of up to six months on a work-based PLA to count towards the completion of an apprenticeship, funded by the National Apprenticeship Service, and will work with Barnardo's, Rathbone and others on the Regulations and guidance on this issue. However the Minister stated that young people cannot be called apprentices during this period, which will be de-motivating to the disadvantaged young people we work with. Barnardo's look forward to working with the Government to see how the best of the work-based PLA approach can be preserved under the new Act, to ensure that disadvantaged young people with chaotic backgrounds are given the chance of embarking on an apprenticeship.

 

6.8 More broadly, widening access to apprenticeships is an urgent challenge which needs to be addressed. Women, Black and minority ethnic (BME) groups and disabled people are all under-represented on apprenticeships. Although this is reflected in the wider employment pattern, apprenticeships are still more segregated by gender, ethnicity and disability than the rest of the corresponding sector's workforce[13]. A failure to protect and build on the best of work-based programme-led apprenticeships will perpetuate such inequalities.

 

6.9 The 2005 Apprenticeships pay survey found a 40% average pay differential between male and female apprentices[14]. BME apprentices are more likely not to progress to a related job after completion of their framework than other apprentices, and are less likely than other young people not to gain an apprenticeship after completing a pre-apprenticeship course[15].

 

December 2009



[1] Evans, J. and Pinney, A. (2009) Second Chances: Re-engaging young people in education and training, Barnardo's http://www.barnardos.org.uk/10942_2nd_chances_report.pdf

[2] Department for Education and Skills (2007) Reducing the number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) by 2013, DfES, p.3

[3] Analysis by the New Policy Institute shows that white, working class boys outnumber every other group amongst young people NEET http://www.poverty.org.uk/32/index.shtml#def (accessed on 16 December 2009)

[4] DCSF Statistical Bulletin The Activities and Experiences of 16 year olds: England 2007

[5] DCSF (2007) The Children's Plan Para 14 and DCSF (2009) Your child, your schools, our future: building a 21st century schools system Para 2.24

[6] The Making Good Progress Pilot provides up to ten hours of targeted one-to-one tuition in reading/writing and/or mathematics for 7-14 year olds who are falling behind. DCSF (2007) The Children's Plan Para 3.72

[7] Final report published on 16 December 2009 http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/lambinquiry/

[8] DWP (2009) Building Britain's Recovery: Achieving Full Employment (Cm 7751)

[9] DWP (2009) Building Britain's Recovery: Achieving Full Employment (Cm 7751)

[10] Smith, N. and Pinney, A. (2009) Lost in Transition: The Urgent Need to Help Young School Leavers into Employment or Work-based Learning - briefing for party conferences 2009

[11] Gregg, P and Tominey, E (2004) The Wage Scar from Youth Unemployment, CMPO Working Paper Series No. 04/097. These figures assume no further periods of unemployment.

[12] DCSF Statistical Bulletin The Activities and Experiences of 16 year olds: England 2007

[13] DCSF (2009) World-class Apprenticeships: Unlocking Talent, Building Skills for All, Chapter 7

[14] Ullman, A and Deakin, G (2005) Apprenticeship Pay: A Survey of Earnings by Sector (DfES Research Report 834)

[15] DCSF (2009) World-class Apprenticeships: Unlocking Talent, Building Skills for All, p.45-46