100,000 Neets off councils’ radar, says watchdog

Around 100,000 teenagers whose jobs or training should be tracked by Whitehall have disappeared off the radar, parliament’s spending watchdog has said.

Margaret Hodge, the committee’s chair, said 148,000 out of two million 16- to 18-year-olds in England were known not to be in education, employment or training – widely described as Neets – and figures appeared to show that another 100,000 were unaccounted for.

“If the activity of young people is unknown to the local authorities where they live, they are unlikely to receive targeted help. It would seem common sense that the main reason the number of Neets is down is that the law has changed to require young people to continue in education or training until at least their 18th birthday. It is difficult to show that any other interventions, such as careers advice, have been effective,” she said.

The report said the Department for Education (DfE) recognised it could do more and would work with councils to identify and share good practice. In some areas the activity of 20% of young people was unknown, compared with a national average of 7%, the committee said.

The MPs called for the DfE to state what it would do if the careers advice offered by a school was found to be poor, and raised concerns that many councils did not help teenagers with the cost of travelling to school or college.

David Simmonds, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said councils needed further powers to ensure partners shared information on teenagers.

“Too often the challenging task of reducing teenage disengagement is made far more difficult when schools, colleges, jobcentres, national schemes and UCAS do not provide the information needed to identify those in need of help,” he said.

“Councils know that transport costs can be a real barrier to post-16 education for young people. Despite not being legally required to do so, many councils have dug deep to try to fund travel costs for young people to get to college.”

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