Tuesday, January 5, 2010

NEET news for Barking and Dagenham

It's not every day that Barking and Dagenham Council gets praise from the Financial Times, but yesterday the Borough's efforts to reduce the numbers of NEETS - teenagers not in employment, education or training - got just that.

In an FT story: Innovative thinking cuts number of idle teens - Barking and Dagenham's efforts to deal with the problem are recognised.

The FT notes:"Several local authorities have bucked the national trend by consistently cutting their numbers of idle young people, in spite of the recession, the Financial Times has learned.

These councils have continued to make progress during the past year thanks to innovative methods.

The local successes will give hope to politicians and labour market experts who argue that to become a “Neet” – a teenager not in employment, education or training – permanently damages an individual’s contribution to society and makes him or her vulnerable to a range of problems...

"Barking and Dagenham, a London borough with high unemployment, has also trimmed the proportion from 11.4 per cent to 8 per cent over the same period.

Nationally the Neet rate has remained remarkably steady for more than 10 years, despite billions of pounds of targeted government spending, making it one of the most intractable of policy issues. The proportion of 16-to-18-year-old Neets in England has recently edged up to 13.4 per cent – but analysts emphasise the Neet conundrum is at least as much an education problem as an employment problem.

Neet specialists who have reduced rates locally underlined the importance of a highly activist approach to finding and helping these young people, with a broad strategy that also involves parents.

Barking and Dagenham Council developed “a Neet risks tool” to work out whether individual children as young as primary school age were likely to become Neets, says Alan Lazell, the council’s head of skills, learning and employment. The model looks at children’s attendance and educational attainment, and whether they come from workless households....

From 2015 teenagers will be obliged to be in education or training up to the age of 18 – making it illegal to be a Neet. Local experts say that could cut numbers by putting more pressure on local and central government to earmark resources.

Paul Bivand, head of analysis and statistics at Inclusion, the think-tank, said: “If young people are not engaged in learning or employment, then the available evidence is that costs are likely to mount up [through] trouble with the police, teen pregnancies – a range of social problems.”

So here again - evidence that Barking and Dagenham is working hard - and in this case bucking the national trend - to give young people hope and genuine prospects for the future.

Would the election of a BNP council help or hinder this approach?

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