Transforming support for young people not in education, employment or training amid Covid-19

Dr Nihara Krause
Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to people everywhere, changing the lives of young people beyond recognition.

With the closure of educational establishments and workplaces, this disarray has impacted both learning and industry. While this disruption aggravates economic and social inequalities among young people, with disadvantaged young people being the most affected, the impact on young people who are spending time not in employment, education or training (Neet) could be stark.  


In May 2020 an ONS report estimated 771,000 young people (aged 16-24 years) in the UK were Neet in January to March 2020. This was an increase of 6,000 compared with January to March 2019, and up 8,000 compared with October to December 2019 figures. Further, the Institute of Student Employers reported that many employers would be recruiting fewer entry-level hires as a result of Covid-19 with 27 per cent of those surveyed recruiting less graduates, 23 per cent less apprentices and school leavers, and 31 per cent less interns and placement students.  


In the Scottish longitudinal Neet study in 2015, it was reported that young people who were Neet remained disadvantaged in their level of education 10-20 years later. Neet has also been shown to have a detrimental effect on physical and mental health, with mental ill health sometimes lasting 10 to 20 years after. The same Scottish study also confirmed that the risk of receiving a prescription for the treatment of depression and anxiety was 50 per cent higher in the Neet group as compared with the non-Neet group.  


The Neet group therefore already starts on the back foot. With a tough challenge ahead, they require urgent focus and support to help catch up. This starts with challenging existing stereotypes of young people who are Neet where they are portrayed as a generation who have wilfully placed themselves where they are, or simply do not try hard enough. Sadly, becoming a young person who is Neet is not a choice. The transition into the adult world is very difficult for many young people, particularly if they have experienced disadvantages and challenges growing up such as poor mental health, unidentified educational difficulties, or a lack of family or social support. Instead of judgment, these young people require access to mentoring, skills training, and a range of opportunities that support differentiated needs, in order to have equal opportunities to take an active role in society. Many young people who are Neet have also become increasingly isolated and demotivated in putting themselves forward after facing rejection, making confidence building another large area to focus on.  

This is particularly relevant post Covid-19 since there will be greater competition for jobs with less-qualified or inexperienced young people more likely to miss out.  


Indeed, post Covid-19 the world of employment will become all the more daunting. Young people in their first job are most likely to be fired on a “first in and first out” policy. Jobs that tend to attract young people due to a lower qualification requirement, for example the entertainment, service or building industries, are currently more likely to be financially unstable. A transformational framework has therefore never been more needed for young people in the Neet group, including targeted governmental policies, economic opportunities and encouragement, access to relevant psychological support, help in managing emotions, enhancing social skills, help in catching up with lost educational opportunities, training in vocational skills, opportunities to gain formal qualifications, and access to work experience. The framework also needs to be sensitive to gender and culture issues since these may contribute to bias. The uncertainty and the prolonged nature of the pandemic and its ramifications will definitely increase the challenges faced by young people who are Neet, so an ongoing focus and long-term plan alongside the needs of other young people, is crucial. 

Dr Nihara Krause is a clinical psychologist and chief executive of stem4

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