NIACE welcomes Youth Contract expansion

25 January 2013

NIACE warmly welcomes the expansion of the Youth Contract, announced by the Department for Education (DfE) last week, because evidence shows that young people with no qualifications, young offenders and those who have been in care are often the furthest away from learning and work.

The DfE announced that an additional 15,500 young people, aged 16-17, would be eligible for support through the Youth Contract – the Government’s flagship programme to tackle youth unemployment. Whilst the Youth Contract is primarily targeted at unemployed young people aged 18-24, since its launch in April 2012, a proportion of funding has been focussed upon engaging 16-17 year olds not in education, employment or training, with no GCSEs at grade A*-C. Many professionals in the youth sector criticised this eligibility criteria as being too narrow and limited to effectively address the scale of the problem and to make a real difference to young people’s lives.

The changes introduced last week mean that three groups of young people aged 16-17, will now be entitled to support:

  • Young people with one GCSE at grade A*-C.
  • Young people who have been released from custody.
  • Young people who are or were in care.

The support that these young people will gain access to will include mentoring on issues such as personal finance, health and wellbeing, skills training, literacy and numeracy support, and job search skills.

Dr Fiona Aldridge, Head of Learning for Work at NIACE, said:

“NIACE welcomes the expansion of the Youth Contract because these young people have few education and employment options in the current economic climate and in addition, the network of organisations supporting them is increasingly over-stretched. Additional help to re-engage with learning, overcome barriers to employment and address some of the complex difficulties that they face in their lives will play an important part in enabling some of these young people to break cycles of disadvantage.”

At a 2012 NIACE conference – Supporting Young Adult Care Leavers into Work – a number of care leavers spoke about the difficulties they encounter and the support they receive. One care leaver said:

“It can be hard to know who to go to for advice about getting a job. Just things like how to apply and what to do at an interview. I didn’t even know what I should wear. Sometimes the information is really confusing. I’ve had so many different support workers; I have to tell them, over and over again, what I want to do. It would help to have one single professional who I could go to for work advice and support – somebody who knows about all the different options and can help me to focus and achieve my goals.”

Dr Fiona Aldridge continued:

“Whilst NIACE welcomes additional support for young people with no or few qualifications, care leavers and young offenders, there are hundreds of thousands of other young people, with specific needs and circumstances, who could also benefit significantly from targeted and intensive support. Young adult carers, for example, as a consequence of their caring responsibilities, often find it particularly difficult to achieve their learning potential and to secure employment; they are more likely to be NEET than other young people and experience high levels of poverty and disadvantage.

Amidst ongoing cuts to services and support for young people, it is important that the difficulties and needs of many other young people are not forgotten amongst the welcome expansion of the Youth Contract.”