By Sue Maguire
First Published November 3, 2015 https://doi.org/10.1177/1745499915612186
While policy-makers in Britain can justifiably lay claim to creating the term NEET to define young people who do not engage in formal learning, training or employment, the high number who fall into, and remain in, this category continues to challenge them. This, in part, is attributable to the extended use of the term NEET to capture all young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who fail to make sustained transitions, as opposed to the 16–18 year old cohort the term was initially designed to measure. This article will provide a discussion about the continued relevance of the term NEET to articulate, define and quantify youth disengagement in England. It will also explore a recent government-led policy intervention that has been introduced to tackle the issue. A particular focus will be the growing profile and involvement of the private sector in designing and leading NEET programmes. Within this, there will be a discussion about who should be taking the lead and whether a relinquishing of responsibility by government for the ownership of NEET programmes and their delivery is appropriate, given the current restrictions on the public purse. Of importance here is what this trend means for young people themselves with regard to the provision of positive and sustained opportunities on a scale that meets the needs of an increasingly diverse and persistent population.
This paper examines the continued relevance and applicability of the term NEET and question whether it accurately quantifies and meets the needs of the population it was designed to serve. It asserts that, while some eligible groups of young people fail to be included in the NEET population figures for England, other young people, most notably those who are profiled as being ‘inactive’ within the NEET group, are often overlooked within the eligibility criteria for specific programme interventions.
The paper assesses the impact and cost-effectiveness of interventions such as the Youth Contract (YC), showing that re-engagement and intensive support should not be displaced by the drive ‘to prove’ that programmes are effective, solely through performance measures which focus on deriving the maximum number of EET outcomes in relatively short timescales.
In conclusion, it questions the value for money of the adopted delivery model, in a climate of austerity, when close restrictions and monitoring of how tax payers’ money is spent are imposed on individual government departments.