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Hidden talents II: re-engaging young people, the local offer

Reducing youth disengagement is a priority for local government, one that unites the sector, and that transcends local party politics. It is a priority too for government, for businesses, for the third sector, and for communities. In this report we make an offer to reduce the growing number of most disengaged young people, those furthest from employment. Long-term youth unemployment is too high. Overall, the number of 16 – 24 year olds not engaged in work or learning remains well over a million. Beneath these headlines, around 260,000 young people have been out of work for over a year, doubling since 2008, and 100,000 for two years.

This is a critical and complex issue for individuals and society, which successive administrations have not been able to resolve. While there are many great initiatives, the overall public service offer is not sufficiently coherent or targeted around individuals, which is least effective for young people at risk of long-term disengagement. Councils have a responsibility to look after the welfare of all young people in their area; they have a leading role in raising of the participation age to 18 years old by 2015, and are the champions of their interests, wanting them to benefit from local efforts to drive growth. Local approaches work, particularly for young people under 16 where local authorities have had the levers, funding and partnerships to join-up and target early intervention provision to help prevent and tackle disengagement.

But councils can be frustrated by the lack of levers to fulfil these responsibilities for young people over 16, who enter a confusing array of national services and programmes. This is not a rational or cost-effective way to design and run services to young people, particularly as no one is able to join-up and target provision around their individual needs.

The truth is, the system relies on the good will of partners and providers to collaborate on the ground, but then dis-incentivises it with national funding, performance and procurement systems. As a result, meaningful collaboration can be patchy. It is happening in some places and in some parts of the system, but it is not happening in nearly enough.