The Local Government Association (LGA) has claimed that almost all young people would be in education, work or training by 2020 if local authorities were given powers to lead the schemes.
Currently, councils are responsible for helping 16- to 18-year-old Neet young people find education or work opportunities, but 19- to 24-year-olds rely on government programmes such as Jobcentre Plus.
But in a new report – Councils Supporting Youth Transitions Into Work and Learning – the LGA argues that the system is too complex and further distances disengaged young people.
The LGA says that council-led initiatives have been more successful than government ones and wants authorities to be given powers to lead youth employment programmes in a bid to dramatically reduce the number of young people who are Neet.
It cites the problems with the government's Youth Contract programme – for which figures published in March showed just five 16- and 17-year-olds had found long-term employment through it – as an example of a national scheme that has failed to deliver. By comparison, Youth Contract programmes run by local authorities have been a resounding success, says the LGA.
Councillor David Simmonds, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “Government needs to allow councils and their local partners to fully take the lead and develop quality services that are built around the needs of young people and employers rather than complex national bureaucracies.
“Across the country, we are seeing dramatic falls in the number of Neets where councils are seizing the agenda, but in the face of bureaucratic burdens councils cannot sustain this forever.
“Local solutions are clearly proving to be the answer and government needs to act now to allow councils to drive it forward and help all young people reach their potential.”
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions has rejected the idea.
He said: “Jobcentres already work closely with local authorities, charities and voluntary organisations to tailor support to meet the needs of their local community, which means that every day they are helping young people get off benefits and into a job.
“Already, the number of young people in jobs is going up and youth unemployment – excluding those in full-time education – is now at its lowest level since 2008.”
Figures recently published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education show that the proportion of Neet young people is at its lowest level since 2005.