A new report from leading UK children's charity Barnardo's says that the most disadvantaged unemployed 16 and 17 year olds are being ignored, with each young person costing public authorities an average of £56,000 over their lifetime.
Barnardo’s argues that the Government’s major reforms aimed at tackling worklessness and benefit dependency prioritise young people from the age of 18, while opportunities for 16 and 17 year olds to acquire the skills needed for work are rapidly declining.
The charity’s chief executive, Anne Marie Carrie, commented: "Britain’s uneven playing field is causing an entire generation of the most disadvantaged teenagers to become ‘lost in transition’. Proof of this lies in the unemployment rate for 16 and 17 year olds which has almost doubled over the last decade."
She continued: "If the Government is serious about solving the worsening unemployment crisis it must tackle the issue from the root. This is the only way that the rhetoric of social mobility can become a reality for all young people, especially the most disadvantaged 16 and 17 year olds.”
“Plans to raise the age of compulsory participation in schooling are a step in the right direction. However, the lives of 16 and 17 year olds will only truly be transformed if flexible and relevant options are put in place which fit their needs," Ms Carrie declared.
She concluded: "Barnardo’s trains and supports over 3,000 young people every year. We know that with the right support, most young people are willing and able to learn and work. The question is: are we willing to make sure they have every chance to succeed?”
In order to prevent young people becoming classed as ‘NEET’ (not in education, employment or training), Barnardo’s is calling for a range of alternative education, employment and training options to be available for 16 and 17 year olds including:
* Programmes targeted to engage young people living in areas of deprivation
* Personal development mentoring and individually tailored programmes
* Industry-specific training and qualifications that lead to jobs in specific trades
* Guidance and advice to develop employability and enhance CVs
Many of the ring-fenced, centrally allocated budgets that enabled services for 16 and 17 year olds have been replaced by the Early Intervention Grant given to local authorities in England.
Equally, critics point out, key services that targeted to 16 and 17 year olds have been cut in favour of the EIG, including the careers advice service Connexions; the Youth Opportunity Fund; January Guarantee and Educational Maintenance Allowance.
The unemployment rate for 16 and 17 year olds has almost doubled over the last decade, rising to 38 per cent at the end of March 2011.
Barnardo’s works with more than 190,000 children, young people and their families each year. It now runs more than 800 services across the UK.
* Barnado's: http://www.barnardos.org.uk/