From education to employment

New Report from Social Exclusion Unit Demonstrates Government Commitment to Inlusion

A report issued by the Social Exclusion Group (SEU) has highlighted the difficulties faced by some people moving from adolescence to adulthood.

The group aged between 16 and 25 years old, often referred to as the “invisible” age group, are to benefit from a cross ““ Government inititaive to help this missing generation negotiate the problems they face. These can include drug abuse and addiction, mental health problems and homelessness. The new initiative will afford young adults in this position the chance to break free from a position of social exclusion and embark on adult life with positive prospects.

The Report

The Report concentrated on issues of social exclusion rather than what has become something of a common fad this past year or so, namely “skills for the economy”. One finding should prove of interest to the Government who, as with all Governments, would be keen to find a place where savings can be made in public expenditure without cutting service provision. The finding at hand is that, were the young people leaving care to take part in similar jobs, education and training activity as their peers, some £300 million would be saved in the course of just three years (not to mention the knock ““ on benefits of having more young people increasing the cashflow by spending their earnings, thus boosting trade and sales figures).

The pressures of being young and alone can often take a devastating toll on the spirit and mind of an individual. The sobering statistic that supports this is that one in four deaths amongst 16 ““ 24 year old men is due to suicide. The report also looks at the issue of demographic variances amongst offenders, with almost two-thirds of young offenders unemployed at the time of arrest compared to 46 per cent of those aged over 25.

The Anti ““ Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) also came in for notice. The report found that, although young people have been given 1,197 ASBOs since April 2004, only 16 Individual Support Orders have been issued alongside them to help them work better. To date, 2,445 ASBOs have been given to young people from ages 10 ““ 17 since they were first introduced in 1999.

Cross Government Action

The report, entitled “Transitions”, was published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), and also outlines some of the measurs that will be taken to combat the issues raised. One such measure is for the action to build up the images of responsibility and respect, to raise aspirations by improving the support behind ASBOs with increased use of individual support orders to tackle the underlying causes of anti-social behaviour. It would seem, if the figures above are to be believed, it would not be difficult to see the increase in the number of Individual Support Orders as a positive step.

Action will be taken to help the more disadvantaged young adults into jobs by training in the basic life skills, building upon the Government’s commitment to improving the fairly appalling basic skills levels according to OECD statistics. It is hoped that this will allow them to move into Apprenticeships, which various ministers have highlighted as the best way to meet skills shortages in the workforce. This will be a means to reduce the number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEETS).

The action will also address so ““ called “artificial age boundaries” that young people are often afflitced with. A one ““ stop system of services will be advanced allowing young people to make use of the help that they need most when they need it rather than stopping and starting services and help simply due to a date printed on a page on their birth certificate. As a wise man in a sporting endeavour close to many hearts once said, “If you”re good enough, you”re old enough.”

Young Offenders and Hostels

This will also involve action involving young offenders, such as a greater degree of information sharing between the youth offending service and the adult prison system, including issues of drug abuse addressed for need and not for age. Reform of prisoner and offender education is often neglected as it does not carry as great a degree of public and popular interest politically speaking. The excellent work of the Shannon Trust, and of the Forum of Prisoner Education (FPE), might be good places to begin if the cross ““ Government action is to prove as comprehensive as they claim.

Above all, the report recognises that there are times when young people have to make crucial and far-reaching decisions. For instance, it is likely that they will need to make life ““ altering decisions in work or in education. The report finds that disadvantaged young adults are often poorly equipped to make choices about their future. Action in this area is intended to include developing the role of the “trusted adult” in supporting vulnerable young people, thus increasing the involvement of the peer group.

The question remains as to how far this will be taken. Other issues may well come further up the political pecking order, even within Education let alone from outside the sector. The political will to establish the issues and what can be done immediately is laudable; the political determination to carry it through for the decades to come is quite another matter.

Jethro Marsh

The report is in; does it address the real problems? Tell us what you think in the FE Blog

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