The devastating impact of NEET (not in education, training or employment) on young people cannot be overstated, nor indeed can the cost to the taxpayer of young people lost to employment.
Giving children and young people a sense that they can control their own destination, by giving them ownership and developing their confidence, is what makes the difference in the long term.
In partnership with BBC Children in Need, in a joint £2m fund we invested in a series of interventions under the banner Positive Destination aimed at preventing young people from sliding into NEET.
To be clear this is a complicated issue but what is apparent is that solutions prevail and, in our view, greater investment in the early years will yield significant pay back to the individual and to our society.
Let’s also be clear the children likely to be affected by NEET are easily identifiable and targeted so there can be no real excuses for not tackling this horrendous issue head on… Prevention has multiple impacts upon the public purse as these projects clearly show.
To of the projects invested in a series of interventions by Positive Destinations are given as examples overleaf to illustrate that the cost of intervention is much less than the cost to the public purse of doing nothing. As well as noting the financial impacts with Children in Need, in actively researching the interventions some key findings, largely unsurprising but important none the less emerged; Children and young people should be given ownership – Projects demonstrated that there is increased engagement when involvement is voluntary and children and young people have real ownership over elements of the project.
Evidence suggests that group work is less effective than one to one activities and that one to one activities are particularly effective with younger children. Where group work has been a characteristic of projects, and particularly wih older young people, this has been successful where group sizes have remained small (five or six in a group). Children and young people should take a central role in reviewing their own progress. All projects reviewed progress regularly but more impact was observed where this review engaged children and young people, empowering them to set goals, define aspirations and develop ambition.
Involving and supporting parents and families is critical for lasting change. The need for engagement of families was evident in all projects: parents, carers and families are a part of the cause as well as a vital part of the solutions. Lack of family support was cited as a significant barrier for all projects (and throughout the three years of delivery) in achieving their short and longer term outcomes with children and young people.
The challenges of engaging parents were very similar to those experienced when engaging children and young people.
Building a trusting relationship with parents was a key challenge but was considered essential and projects developed a variety of good tactics to work with parents.
Working with parents and carer is labour intensive and leads to additional responsibilities but is critical in enabling effective work with children and young people. Projects have needed to address the support needs of parents, enable them to access professional support (e.g. for mental health, drug and alcohol dependency and domestic violence issues), build their aspirations, develop their core skills, and build bridges with social services, schools and health professionals in order to engage them in supporting progress in their children’s lives.
By transforming the mind-set of parents and challenging poor home and school engagement, projects were able to work more constructively with children and secure longer term positive outcomes.
Engaging and actively supporting parents is one of the single most important factors in helping children and young people make lasting changes to their lives.
The achievement of any sustained change for children, young people and their families was only possible when projects dedicated significant time and resources to identifying and building these partnerships: attending multi-agency meeting; developing joint working protocols; coordinating referrals; defining responsibilites and activites; ensuring appropriate signposting and maintaining a commitment to a holistic (multi-agency) approach.
The importance of playing a dual role of advocate and broker on behalf of children, young people and families has deeb demonstrated by all projects.
To read the full report on Positive Destinations download it from tinyurl.com/cnx49sy