Youth Contract extension results in just five long-term placements

By Neil Puffett

| 19 March 2014

Only five 16- and 17-year-olds have been helped back into education, training or employment for an extended period under the government's £1bn Youth Contract since eligibility criteria was extended last year, it has emerged.

The criteria for which 16- and 17-year-olds can be helped under the Youth Contract was extended in January 2013. Picture: NTI

In January last year the criteria for 16- and 17-year-olds who could be helped via the scheme was extended to include young offenders, young people in the care system, and those who had only one GCSE from A* to C grade.

Previously, the scheme had only been available for those who didn’t have any GCSEs above a D grade.

Statistics produced by the Education Funding Agency show that 1,722 of the “extended cohort” were enrolled on the Youth Contract between January and the end of September last year.

Of these, around one in three (29.2 per cent) were recorded as starting education, employment, or training.

However, so far only five of them – 0.3 per cent of the total – have gone on to remain in education, employment or training for at least five months.

Out of the original cohort – those with no GCSEs above a D grade – of 10,198 who enrolled on the programme between September 2012 and September 2013, a total of 484 young people ended up back in education, employment, or training for an extended period (4.8 per cent of the total).

Rhian Johns, director of policy and campaigns at Impetus – The Private Equity Foundation, said the latest figures suggest that the Youth Contract is not succeeding in producing outcomes for 16- and 17-year-olds who really need them.

“The Youth Contract is another piecemeal attempt to address a long-term structural problem with young people not in education, employment or training (Neet),” she said.

“We are calling for systemic change – starting with a Secretary of State for school-to-work transitions to create a clear line of accountability and resource to really tackle this structural issue. 

“If we are serious about reducing the number of Neets, our programmes and policies must address not only the current unemployed, but also recognise the need to work with 14- to 16-year-olds, preparing them now for their transition and creating accessible and sustainable pathways to connect them from education to the world of work.”

The Local Government Association told CYP Now that the Youth Contract has been “hampered” in a number of areas because it is difficult to join it up with other local services designed to help re-engage young people.

“Overall it has only helped around 29 per cent of young people starting the programme into work or learning,” an LGA spokesman said.

“With the greatest will, Whitehall cannot do it all from the centre and we would urge government to work with local authorities and their partners, giving them the powers to become the link between young people and local employers."

The spokesman pointed to the examples of Bradford (which has helped 74 per cent of all young people starting the youth contract into work or learning) and Leeds (70 per cent) as examples of where delivery of the Youth Contract has been devolved, allowing the councils to “join up services better and target need effectively”.

“A fully devolved programme would have helped twice the number of young people,” the spokesman added.                            

It is not the first time the government’s Youth Contract has come in for criticism.

Last year, the campaigners branded the wage incentive element of the Youth Contract a “failure” after it helped less then 5,000 young people find a job in its first year.

The youth contract is worth around £1bn overall, with the element of it that supports 16- and 17-year-olds making up around £126m of the total.

The cost of expanding the eligibility criteria for the 16 and 17-year-old element, to allow as many as 15,000 more young people to receive help, has been estimated as £20m.

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