Neet figures set to rise as government changes reporting rules

Lauren Higgs
Thursday, May 19, 2011

The number of young people classified as not in employment, education or training (Neet) is poised to rise following government changes to the way in which data from local authorities is reported.

Changes to the way numbers of Neet young people are reported are expected to lead to a rise in the figures
Changes to the way numbers of Neet young people are reported are expected to lead to a rise in the figures

Until last month, councils ceased to include young people in their local Neets statistics when they reached their 19th birthday. But the government now wants councils to report this information based on academic age.

This means the cohort of young people included in Neets data will increase, since young people will feature in statistics for the entire academic year in which they turn 19.

David Howard, performance director at Greater Merseyside Connexions Partnership, said the change to the way data is reported is significant.

"It is a rational thing to do," he said. "But there will be an increased number of older young people in the monthly count. Inevitably more of them have left school or college and are unemployed so it will undoubtedly inflate the Neet percentage."

He added that the numbers of young people who are classified as ‘unknown’ in the statistics will rise, since tracking young people after compulsory education becomes increasingly difficult with age.

"All of this makes sense, but it will have an inflationary effect on Neets figures and unless you understand the intricacies of how things are counted it could lead to some misconceptions about what’s really going on," he said.

Steve Stewart, chief executive of Connexions Coventry and Warwickshire, said extra funding would be needed to help local authorities to track young people for longer.

"We received information about this change two weeks ago; neither of our local authorities were made aware of it and both are unsure about the rationale for it," he said. "It will have an immediate impact in terms of raising the number who are in the Neet category and in the ‘unknown’ category."

He argued that localities in which Connexions services have been slashed may be unable to provide government with accurate data.

"I haven’t got a clue what areas will do where there have been severe cuts to Connexions," he said. "You may find that we only get this information for half the nation. The government is saying we need to track these kids but they will find that it’s just not happening in many places. I think the national picture will be incredibly confused because of the reductions in spend by local authorities."

A spokesman for the Department for Education dismissed claims that the change would lead to increased work for councils.

"Local authorities have always had to track young people up to their 20th birthday," he said. "As a result local authorities will not have to collect any extra data – they will simply be carrying on collating the information the way they always have.

"The Department will in future, however, group the data by both academic age and actual age. We are doing this because other data we publish on participation and Neet relates to academic age and it’s important we present local Client Caseload Information System figures in the same way."

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