New research shows that 67% of unemployed 17-19 year olds in Newcastle come from the 25% of 17-19 year olds who have had multiple contacts with children’s social care.
An analysis of 8,000, 17-19 year olds in Newcastle, carried out by Social Finance and Newcastle City Council, in partnership with Impetus-PEF, shows that 67% of unemployed youth in the city had had repeated contact with Children’s Social Care. This, despite the fact that only 25% of the total population of 17-19 year olds in the city, had been in contact Children’s Social Care.
While care leavers are widely acknowledged as a high risk group for unemployment and a range of poor social outcomes, the analysis concludes that vulnerable young people – those on a Child Protection Plan or even those who have only had six interactions with Children Social Care – spend more than three times as long in unemployment or out of education.
These findings have real significance for the wider population. In England, there are nearly 70,000 children who are Looked After by the state. The government recently launched the Care Leavers covenant to make their transition to youth adulthood smoother. But if the data from Newcastle is representative of the unemployed youth population across the country, there are an additional 440,000 children under Children’s Social Care plans who are at very high risk of unemployment and other negative outcomes in the future.
While the number of unemployed youth has fallen recently, the UK NEET rate at 12.7% is still four times that of the best performing OECD countries. As the NEET challenge costs government approximately £25 billion a year, including lost taxes, benefits and additional public services spend, central and local government should identify those at risk of NEET at a much earlier stage.
David Hutchison, Social Finance CEO said: “To continue to make real progress on youth unemployment, we must be able to identify, through solid evidence, who the most vulnerable are. Our analysis shows that by using a rich data source and analysing it through different lenses, we can shed new light on those most at risk. This will enable scarce resources to be better spent for greater impact.”
By identifying the groups at greatest risk of poor life chances in the future through social care, the government alongside the charitable and philanthropic sector can focus their efforts and limited resources by targeting services more effectively. While the data cannot explain the causality between a vulnerable childhood and a poor transition to adulthood, it does provide evidence that strengthens professionals’ intuition about which youth to prioritise and how to support them – and it suggests that broader support for family functioning will have long term beneficial effects.
Councillor Joanne Kingsland, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People in Newcastle, said: “One of the most important roles we have as a local authority is to support the most vulnerable children and young people in our city. Most young people are able to move successfully into adulthood, but for some this transition can be very challenging.
"In Newcastle we are committed to finding the most effective way of supporting these young people to build the foundations for stability in adult life.
“We undertook this analysis because we wanted to understand more about the young people who don’t make successful transitions. The findings will help us to give the right support at the right time to those at greatest risk, giving them a far better chance to fulfil their potential.”
The research makes clear that NEET prevention efforts should focus much more sharply on family functioning and young people’s responses to challenges: improving educational attainment is important, but not enough.
Traditionally, GCSE attainment has been seen as a bellwether for identifying youth at risk of becoming NEET. But we have found that poor GCSEs alone do not predict NEET rates, as few children with poor GCSEs and no other risk factors become NEET.
Engagement with social care – and the underlying family dysfunction it signals – is far more instructive.
Still, for children most at risk, good GCSEs do serve as a protective indicator. Similarly, the choice of post-16 education can influence the likelihood of becoming NEET. Across all populations, young people who stay in school through sixth form are least likely to become NEET.