8 Coordinating the Youth Contract
and youth employment and skills policy |
210. Delivering employment and skills services to
young people is an exceptionally challenging task, given the diverse
range of young people to be supported, who have widely differing
needs and aspirations. Policy and delivery is overseen by several
government departments and agencies and a growing number of public,
voluntary and private sector providers. This chapter looks at
how responsibilities for young people's services within the Youth
Contract and related policy areas are divided up and considers
whether reforms to unify responsibilities and consolidate and
simplify provision are necessary.
Division of responsibilities
211. Publicly-funded support for young people's employment
and skills includes: pre- and post-16 education; learning grants;
work placements and training; the Work Programme and Work Choice;
benefits; and careers information, advice and guidance (IAG).
As noted by Inclusion, at least five central government departments
are involved in overseeing policies in these areas. Broadly, departmental
responsibilities for provision are arranged as follows:
· BIS: apprenticeships and 19 plus
further education; IAG post 18 (via the newly established National
· DCLG: Early Intervention Grant
(EIG, central government grants for funding of Sure Start centres,
and youth and family support via local authorities)
· DfE: Schools and further education
to age 18; learning grants (including the 16-19 Bursary Fund and
Care to Learn support for young lone parents); IAG in schools
to age 18
· DWP: Benefits, work experience,
employment programmes. 
The case for greater coordination
212. It is clear that the problem is not a lack of
provision for young people and employers but rather over-complexity
and confusion about where to begin looking for appropriate support
and information. The full complexity of services supporting young
people was most clearly set out in evidence from the Local Government
Association, which listed 33 separate services and funds. Excluding
school funding, and some programmes where the budget was unknown,
the combined estimated annual budget for these services in 2010/11
was around £16 billion.
In its recent report on the fragmentation of services for young
people, Inclusion identified 40 separate funding streams and concluded
that there was "considerable complexity, duplication and
unclear accountabilities". In particular, it found "significant
overlap between funding agencies at ages 16-19, and particularly
at age 18". In Scotland and Wales, where education, training
and skills policies are devolved, the national administrations
each have several of their own initiatives.
213. Several witnesses felt that provision could
be better coordinated. Kirsty McHugh of ERSA cited the Big Lottery's
announcement, in June 2012, of a £100 million Talent Match
programme to support NEETs in 21 "hotspot" areas as
an example of "policy layering" of the kind that left
employers confused about what was available. She felt that such
announcements, which the then Minister for Employment told us
he was unaware of in advance, were indicative of a lack of joined-up
214. The FPB reported that small business owners
find the current range of youth skills and employment provision
confusing and consequently often do not know where to start. It
argued that many small businesses lack the administrative and
financial resources to trawl through the available options. It
recommended the establishment of a single call-centre to "signpost
businesses to an appropriate provider".
The CBI supported this idea. It highlighted that JCP staff had
been entirely unaware of the Youth Contract when businesses had
phoned them for information.
215. Inclusion believed that the Government should
make it "an urgent priority" to "set out a clear
accountability framework for supporting young people from learning
to work, and then to ensure that the funding and performance regimes
across public bodies support this".
It has recently argued that, in the longer-term, there is a case
for a single Youth Employment and Skills Service to combine all
provision in this area for 16-24 year-olds.
A similar recommendation was made in a recent report by The Work
Foundation. It called for a "dedicated national unit"
in Whitehall headed by a Minister responsible for oversight of
youth unemployment policies across departments.
216. Ministers were fairly dismissive of these ideas.
The then Minister for Employment argued that Whitehall reorganisations
can be "hugely disruptive". The then Minister for Further
Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning acknowledged that there
was a "challenge" in avoiding duplication but felt that
there was not a case for a single agency "at the moment"
as it may "interrupt progress". He pointed out the existence
of a joint ministerial advisory group and that each department's
civil servants worked closely together on overlapping polices.
217. There is a plethora of services and funding
streams aimed at increasing young people's participation in education
and employment. We do not doubt that it is all well-intentioned
and some of it works well. However, we are not convinced that
public money is being used in the most cost-effective way and
the scale of duplication must be contributing to waste as well
as complexity and confusion for young people and employers. The
Government seemed reluctant to tackle this by appointing a single
Minister or delivery agency and we have some sympathy with this
reluctance to introduce machinery of government changes which
would not necessarily resolve the problem. Nevertheless, we
believe that there is a very strong case for consolidation of
funding streams and delivery bodies and improved cross-departmental
working. We recommend that, in response to this Report, the Government
sets out how it plans to deliver a more stream-lined and cost-efficient
system for providing youth employment and skills services both
in the short and longer-term.
218. We identified one specific current weakness
which needs to be addressed if the Youth Contract is to succeed.
There is currently no single information and support service,
either locally or nationally, for employers who wish to offer
opportunities to young people or to find out about government
employment and training schemes. We recommend that DWP sets up
a dedicated telephone helpline for employers looking to offer
young people employment, training and work experience opportunities.
The helpline should be staffed by trained employees with a full
knowledge of the Youth Contract offer and all related schemes.
A parallel single online information service should also be established.
193 Inclusion, Hidden Talents: Analysis of fragmentation
of services to young people, January 2012 Back
Ev 146 Back
See http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Education and http://wales.gov.uk/topics/educationandskills
Q 301 [Kirsty McHugh]; Q 433 Back
Ev 141 Back
Q 81 Back
Ev 104 Back
Inclusion, Hidden Talents: Analysis of fragmentation of services
to young people, January 2012, p 2 and attachment 3. Back
"Government's fragmented approach not enough to tackle crisis
of long-term youth unemployment", The Work Foundation press
release, 19 June 2012. Back
Qq 436-439 Back