The complex NEET problem demands a tailored approach
Authors: Katy Jones
24 May 2013
The number of NEET young people continues to remains stubbornly high. The latest figures show that 15% of 16-24 year-olds in the UK are not in employment, education or training and the number has been hovering around the million mark for some time.
We know from our research that the NEET cohort is a diverse group - young people can be NEET for a number of reasons: some are unemployed and looking for work while others have caring responsibilities, long-term disabilities or health conditions. However, for the most vulnerable young people, things are much tougher - and are getting worse. Youth homelessness has been creeping up for some time now and the barriers to engaging in employment, education or training for this group are particularly high. It is vital that efforts to tackle the UK’s NEET crisis do not leave this group behind.
The data from 2011/12 shows that 17,380 16-24 year-olds were accepted as homeless and ‘in priority need’ by their local authority. Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation back in 2008 also estimated that as many as 75,000 young people, in the same age group, experienced some form of homelessness in any one year.
Whilst unemployment is often not the direct cause of homelessness (and vice versa), being homeless, while young, can make participating in employment, education or training extremely difficult. A DCLG survey, conducted in 2006, found that a disproportionate number of homeless 16-17 year-olds were NEET: 57% at a time when the national average for this age group was 11%.
Barriers to work for this group will, in many cases, overlap with the reasons behind their homelessness. For some, disruptive and often abusive home lives may have resulted in difficulties at school (and consequently lower qualifications). For others, single events such as bereavement can mean that coping with depression can be the biggest barrier to work. But for all, limited resources to cover the costs (e.g. transport) of entering and sustaining employment as well as training can be a real problem. Moreover, simply being homeless can increase the risk of being NEET as unstable housing situations can dramatically impact on a person’s ability to participate in education or work. These reasons are in no way comprehensive and it is vital that the different issues faced by young homeless people are identified and that support is tailored to their needs.
A major issue for policy-makers is that many young people who are most in need of support are not engaging with formal services. Many young homeless people do not get the help they need and can be hidden from the services trying to assist them. However, this is a challenging time for organisations offering support for homeless people, since, at a time when demand for services is increasing, funding is being drastically reduced.
The number of young people not in employment, education or training remains at a crisis level. The economic and social costs of this are huge and, for the most vulnerable, the consequences will be even more severe. In order to address the NEET problem there is a need to better understand both the nature of the NEET cohort and their support needs. For those furthest away from employment, education or training, getting the right support is even more critical.
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