Ending the NEET crisis for good

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‘A wicked problem’ is one with causes and variables so complex and numerous that it seems resistant to change. It’s generally accepted that 21st century western governments are beset with wicked problems, because all the easy ones have been solved. The UK’s stubbornly high number of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) has been described as one. Certainly it’s a multi-causal problem, and one that requires multiple solutions.  But calling it ‘wicked’ invites a fatalism and shoulder-shrugging acceptance that legitimises a lack of focussed action. In short – it’s a cop-out.

Today we release a blueprint for action to end the NEET crisis for good. In partnership with the Social Market Foundation, we’ve identified actions across four key areas that we believe would, if implemented together, significantly reduce the numbers of young people NEET. We’re not alone in calling for some of them – think tanks and advisory bodies, including IPPR and the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, have recently called for similar moves.

So if there’s consensus, why isn’t there action?

Crucially, we believe that the split in departmental responsibilities relating to young people stops actions being implemented together – and coordinated action is what this problem requires. DfE, BIS, and DWP all have accountability for some of the services which can transform a young person’s transition from school to work, but they all work to different objectives, and the young people most likely to become NEET fall through the cracks.

We don’t need a new government department. We do need a Secretary of State – someone with the power and accountability to, over one government term, cut across Whitehall silos and enact all parts of a strategy to make NEETs history by 2020:

  • Repairing school-to-work transitions: appointing a senior leader in every school and college with responsibility for transitions; measuring performance through Ofsted inspections and destinations data.
  • Focusing on higher-quality further education and apprenticeships: increasing the share of public funding for providers where a high proportion of students go into employment or further training while taking it away from those with poor performance; reserving two-thirds of government-funded apprenticeships for young people aged under 25 and half of these for apprenticeships that represent new jobs.
  • Tailoring job-search services for young people: rolling out the scheme to have specialist youth advisers in job centres.
  • Incentivising local authorities to make an impact: providing matched funding to local authorities with high proportions of NEETs that are willing to create a programme and commit their own funds to tackling the issue as well.

The blueprint has more detail on all of these, and we’ll be exploring them in blogs over the next month.

The success of London 2012 shows what we can achieve when we cut across Whitehall turfs and invest responsibility in one person to allow them to achieve a clearly defined goal. The growing consensus that NEETs are not a wicked problem, but one which can be solved, points towards the opportunity to create an even greater legacy – if it can be grasped.

Impetus − The Private Equity Foundation
About The Author
Jenny North is Director of Policy and Strategy at Impetus-PEF. Jenny joined Impetus-PEF from Relate, where she served as Head of Public Policy for six years. Prior to this she held policy positions with Maternity Alliance and New Policy Institute. Her experience also includes working at the Home Office as a Crime and Policing Analyst. Jenny holds a degree in Philosophy and Theology from Oxford University. Follow Jenny on Twitter: @JayEeeEnn

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