Not such a ‘NEET’ trick by Guest blogger Jemilea Wisdom

We’re all in this together….  (David Cameron) ‘Apparently’

An explosion of reality has hit the headlines as the number of NEETs has reached epic figures. With 1.6million 18-24’s Not in Education, Employment or Training – what exactly are these young people doing? Being young in the UK now means: No EMA, Unaffordable Tuition Fees, No Jobs regardless of degree certificates, No Prospects and No Property… Adolescence and dependency continues as young people are starved of opportunities for independence. But, don’t worry young people, the government is working tirelessly to create opportunities to earn minimum wage!

With the current recession, unemployment has hit all ages yet the youngest with fewer gems on their CV are pushed out of the magnitude of applications leaving them jobless and dependant on benefits to survive. The government has responded to this crisis with a £1bn Youth Contract Plan providing opportunities for these young people based on apprenticeships, work experience placements and an aim to have reached 500,000 unemployed young people over three years. But there’s a catch. Of course. Firstly the money for this scheme is not new; it will be sucked out of the taxes of working class people, as the poor mop up the mess of the bankers and knee jerk reactions of the coalition government. This strategy – an inverted Robin Hood methodology forces young people to work for free under the guise of gaining ‘work experience’ with their meagre benefits docked should they refuse. This modern-day exploitation highlights the youth slave labour which benefits businesses and the Tories’ by reducing unemployment figures. While money has been promised to private-sector businesses to subsidise 160,000 workplaces, what is the longevity of this strategy when the money runs out? At best it has been proposed that this scheme ‘may lead to a job’ – doesn’t sound very hopeful to me.

The label NEET can be applied to a vast majority of young people with differing circumstances, some of which are well educated with high academic achievements, who require a job and not a half hearted minimum wage substitute covering their horrific debt with a plaster and puncturing their balloon ideology that education automatically leads to success. Other young people have low academic abilities and are poorly equipped for working life despite years in compulsory education. These young people may benefit from the Youth Contract initially, but if they are forced into jobs they hate, or are not given the necessary tools and skills to achieve a sustainable career this could add to their overall demoralisation.

While targeting figures, like a paracetamol cure, it does nothing but hide the underlying issue. The government is focusing on the current cohort of NEET’s, however another generation is already at risk of the same path. What is being done to prevent these young people of becoming NEET? Are early interventions working? As a youth worker in Hackney I am often surrounded by young people who have given up hope, with few or no aspirations they feel they have little to look forward to. Impartial careers guidance that once supported young people on their path has been annihilated and choices have been replaced by coercion. It is important that young people are identified as individuals and not stereotyped by statistics or labels. The focus needs to be what will work best for the young people themselves and not what will keep the government from bad publicity.

By Jemilea Wisdom


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