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England's 'forgotten' teens

England's 'forgotten' teens - targeted help will save money and misery says new report
Since 1990 a yearly government survey has indicated that between 9 and 10 per cent of 16 to 18 year olds are without wages, schooling or training.
Now a new study by the Audit Commission looks at the financial, personal and social cost of teenagers who are so-called NEET - Not in Education, Employment or Training. It has found that the problem may be worse than the annual 'snapshot' survey shows, but that a new approach can make scarce resources work harder for those at greatest risk.    
Against the Odds - Re-engaging young people in education, employment or training looks deeper into this issue than any previous report. Analysis of the records of 24,000 young people in ten areas countrywide suggests that as many as one in four may be outside school, work or training, and that the number affected varies widely across the country. 
Even more worryingly, this new research shows about 10 per cent of the teenagers in the study groups were out of education, employment or training in the long term, for six months or more - that is over 85,000 young people nationally. If they were helped to become employed adults they would avoid the risk of falling into long-term joblessness, ill-health and criminality.
Chairman of the Audit Commission, Michael O'Higgins, says: 'Young people should be the future, but tens of thousands are at risk. After age 18 they could drift into unemployed, unqualified and untrained adulthood. This core group of young people, out of work and education for six months or more, is often overlooked. While there is 8.67 billion set aside for 16-19 learning and support, most of it rarely reaches these more disadvantaged teens who need more intensive support. Mapping where they are often mirrors the country's most deprived places. But some areas of industrial decline have bucked the trend - such as Rotherham's successful use of setting individual school targets and spotting pupils at risk.'
'Being out of school and work is often linked with other social issues such as being in care, teenage parenthood, homelessness or ill-health. The combined effect can sap young people's self-confidence, aspirations and expectations. The stark truth is, without better targeted help, there is a huge price to be paid by these individuals, by their children, and by society.'
The report introduces real-life case studies: Sophie A and Sophie B. Although a teenage parent, Sophie A is helped into a bright future. Whereas her less fortunate counterpart Sophie B has her children adopted, and never works (see notes below).  
Teenagers out of education and employment are often the sons or daughters of parents who dropped out of school early themselves, trapped in a cycle of worklessness, living in households where no one has a job. But they may also be young carers, young parents, products of the care system, or have health problems. 
The report calls for action. Councils should get to grips with the needs of their local teens, There should be better targeted funding, and more effective schemes to encourage youngsters into training or employment. The authors found that successful programmes have three common elements:
they target responses to local circumstances and
they support pre16s at risk of drifting away from school, training or employment and
they intervene after age 16 in a way tailored to meet individuals' needs.
Michael O'Higgins adds: 'Local knowledge and targeted action offer the best chance of making a lasting difference to these young lives, and of saving the country billions of pounds in welfare support, lost taxes and income.'
'We know that money is tight, and there isn't a universal remedy. But our report shows the solution lies in local hands, and that initiatives can be cost-effective. Among good examples we found is Gloucestershire, where a single contractor delivers all youth services. Too often our research showed that Connexions, schools, colleges, Jobcentre Plus, and other youth support services aren't collaborating effectively. There is duplication, wasted effort, and wasted money. But joined-up schooling, training, local support and timely interventions can nip problems in the bud. Hundreds of thousands of teenagers can be transformed from depending on society to contributing to it.'

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