By Sarah Webster, Executive Chair

Panel Photo (left to right): Stephen Kinnock MP, Joe Dromey, Jenny Baskerville, John Craven, Maria Neophytou, Fatima Benkhaled, Sarah Webster

There is a significant human and economic cost of the 790,000 young people who are currently NEET in the UK (£56,000 is the estimated cost to the economy of each NEET young person which would total around £26bn ).  The disparity of opportunity for even the high achieving young people from poorer backgrounds is demonstrated by the fact that up to 40% of students in the top private schools are accepted to Oxbridge while many state schools have less than 1% or none at all.  This means the power and influence over our country continues to be held by the privileged few.   A further symptom of the deeper issues is the inequality represented by the amount of money spent on university courses (generally benefitting the middle classes) compared to that spent on those who enter vocational training - there are huge structural inequalities which prevent young people from poorer backgrounds from having the same opportunities for education and employment than their richer peers, despite the fact they often have to overcome significant personal barriers even to play on the same field. 

It was encouraging to hear about the hard work being done by employers like KPMG to ensure that they are recruiting a diverse workforce, closely measured and driven by a strategy of outreach, recruitment practices and development programmes for employees to ensure their career progression so that future leadership might be a better representation of society.  Ideas to fund increased investment in young people included raising tax from private schools, who, it was proposed should lose their charitable status if they cannot demonstrate public benefit. 

But perhaps what came through most strongly through the discussion is that more than anything young people need a political system which thinks longer term.  Their lives and their futures are not things to be point scored against for politicians.  Not since the second world war has a generation faced lower prospects.  It is high time the generation that has caused this mess began to establish some plans to get them out of it while listening to the younger voters.  At TwentyTwenty we work with politicians across the political spectrum who share our view that a person’s life outcomes should not be determined by where they were born but by their talent, and that we must be a country which ensures opportunities are open to people regardless of background.  We are grateful of the support we have from Nicky Morgan MP as well as from Jonathan Ashworth MP.  They both share our desire to provide brighter futures for the young people who we work with.

There were a number of policy ideas that were discussed and at TwentyTwenty we believe that to improve the life chances of the hardest to reach young people the government needs to:

  • Protect funding for schools and particularly ensure that young people from poorer backgrounds have access to coaching, mentors and counselling so that they can access the support they need to overcome the additional barriers that they face.
  • Ensure every school has a careers service and careers advice is a respected profession which is closely linked with the Local Economic Partnerships and higher education providers. Careers advisors should spend time with employers so they keep aware of the labour market and ensure young people have access to work exposures, work experience and mentors from the business world.
  • Provide a comparable ‘apprenticeship premium’, or additional funding through post 16 funding streams for young people who have been on free school meals or have high risk factors associated with them so that organisations like TwentyTwenty can fund the additional support they know these young people need to secure positive progression into employment. We also need to know how the government plans to replace ESF funding, which many charities like TwentyTwenty are dependent on, when Britain eventually leaves the EU.

I am looking forward to hearing what comes out of Conservative Party conference next week on this crucial issue and what policy developments they announce to ensure every young person has a fair chance to secure a good job.