Latest figures show that 1 in 10 young people (aged 16-18) were not in education, employment or training (NEET) at the end of 2006. Being NEET is an enormous waste of young people's potential and their contribution to society. The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) therefore has a key target to reduce the proportion of 16-18 year olds NEET. This is important to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) too as young people who are NEET between the ages of 16 and 18 are more likely to become unemployed as adults.
DCSF's Public Service Agreement (PSA) target is to reduce the proportion of young people NEET by 2% points by 2010 (from the 2004 baseline of 10%), and DWP has a PSA to increase the overall employment rate. DCSF and DWP have been discussing how they can best work together to deliver these targets.
Although primary responsibility for supporting young people who are NEET lies with local authorities and Connexions providers, Jobcentre Plus also plays a crucial role by offering support, primarily, but not exclusively, to young people who are seeking work or claiming benefit. It is important therefore that strong links are established and maintained between both organisations at a local level to ensure the delivery of a seamless service. This guidance sets out how Connexions providers and Jobcentre Plus can work effectively together in reducing NEET, in particular through the creation of local 'partnership agreements'.
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There were 206,000 (10.3%) 16-18 year olds NEET in England at the end of 2006. Although the last few years have seen a significant rise in the proportion of 16 year olds participating in education or training, this has not had the impact we want on NEET because fewer young people are in employment. Lord Leitch, in his review of skills, predicted that the number of low skilled jobs will shrink over the coming years. This, together with our increasingly global labour market means that we have to look at new ways of working together to reduce NEET.
Table 1: Young people's activities - 2001 -2006
Source: DCSF participation estimates (SFR 20/2006)
DCSF's priority is to engage young people, particularly 16 and 17 year olds, in education and training. However, falling employment levels have impacted particularly on 18 year olds, who now make up half of the NEET group. Not all are unemployed; the numbers include those who are ill, caring for children, or taking a 'gap year'. None the less, the majority are looking to re-engage in work or learning, and this is a group of young people who are likely to be in contact with both Jobcentre Plus and Connexions advisers. This is why it is essential that both services understand the support and help that they can each offer, share information, and ensure that young people receive an integrated package of support.
Table 2: % NEET at ages 16, 17 and 18
Source: DCSF participation estimates (SFR 20/2006)
DCSF announced in November 2007 a strengthened strategy to reduce the proportion of young people NEET. This has 4 key elements:
careful tracking - to identify early those young people who are NEET, or who are at risk of becoming so and to provide the intelligence needed to plan and commission services for young people.
personalised guidance and support - to make sure young people know how to access education, training or employment and to enable them to overcome barriers to participation.
provision of a full range of courses to meet demand - to engage young people through attractive and sufficient provision at every level and in every style of learning.
the rights and responsibilities of young people to engage in work or learning.
A number of new measures were announced alongside this strategy, including plans to ensure greater flexibility in the time of year when young people can start courses; pilot an extension of the range of courses that attract the Education Maintenance Allowance; and give 18 year olds with a history of being NEET early entry to New Deal for Young People. The strategy can be found here: http://www.dfes.gov.uk/14-19/index.cfm?sid=42&pid=343&lid=336&ctype=Text&ptype=Single
The Government is in the process of legislating to ensure that young people remain in some form of education or training until their 18th birthday (by 2015).
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Jobcentre Plus can contribute to this strategy by:
working closely with local authorities and their Connexions providers to ensure young people receive the best possible information, advice and guidance;
encouraging young people to remain in contact with Connexions providers, and seeking their consent to information being shared;
giving advice and guidance to young people seeking employment;
facilitating early entry to New Deal for those for whom this is the best course of action;
sharing information with Connexions providers on the local labour market; and
contributing to working groups set up to tackle local NEET issues.
Information on young people NEET can be obtained from a number of sources. However, the NEET PSA is measured using the DCSF participation estimates which are published annually (usually in June). These combine data from a number of sources to estimate the proportion of young people who are in education and training, employment and NEET. These statistics define:
Young people as those of academic age 16 -18; ie young people who have completed compulsory education in the last 3 years.
NEET as young people who are not in any form of full- or part- time education, training or employment.
The DCSF estimates are only available for the whole of England. So local targets and performance are measured using data provided by Connexions providers. The two sets of data are not directly comparable and because of differences in definitions, and Connexions figures show a lower proportion of young people to be NEET than the DCSF estimates. However, the two sets of data show similar trends over time and so Connexions data can be used to measure progress.
Connexions data showing the number and percentage NEET in each local authority at the end of 2006 can be found here:
Partnership agreements between Connexions and Jobcentre Plus
Because many young people who are NEET will come into contact with both Connexions providers and Jobcentre Plus, both organisations have a responsibility to ensure that their respective services complement each other and dovetail wherever possible.
This responsibility is best underpinned by the development of local partnership agreements, which document the ways in which both organisations will work together to ensure:
a seamless and comprehensive service is provided for all young people;
young people are offered the information, advice and specific help they need to engage with education, training and/or employment;
staff are aware of the arrangements for dealing with young people and the specific roles of each organisation;
young people are helped to claim appropriate benefits;
relevant information is exchanged promptly between the Connexions provider and Jobcentre Plus; and
an integrated marketing strategy is developed for employers.
There is an example of a Partnership Agreement at annex 1. Responsibility for making sure that agreements are in place lies with Jobcentre Plus District Managers and Directors of Children's Services. Because of boundary differences, some Jobcentre Plus districts will need to have agreements with more than one local authority (and vice versa).
The agreement should be a living document that is reviewed and, where possible, improved at regular meetings between the partners. Such meetings would also provide the opportunity to discuss common issues, address concerns and agree best practice etc.
Jobcentre Plus is able to exchange personal information about young people aged 16 and 17 with Connexions providers where it relates specifically to that young person's claim for benefit. This exchange is allowed for in social security legislation, so customer consent is not required. The sharing of personal information about young people is not permitted in any other circumstances without the fully informed consent of the individual.
The sharing of information on 18 and 19 year olds is allowed with the customer's consent. It is in the interests of young people to give their consent to data sharing so that:
the agency best placed to help the young person can be identified;
local authorities know how many young people in the area are NEET and can therefore plan and commission services to meet their needs; and
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Connexions providers have accurate records of spells that young people have spent NEET and can share with this with Jobcentre Plus so that young people can be fast tracked to the New Deal Gateway (see below).
2 The role of Jobcentre Plus
The primary aims of Jobcentre Plus are to:
help more people into paid employment;
help employers fill their vacancies; and
pay benefit accurately and on time to people who are entitled to receive it.
16/17 year olds
Relatively few 16 and 17 year olds engage with the benefit system and therefore come into direct contact with Jobcentre Plus. However, for those that do, it is particularly important that Jobcentre Plus and Connexions work closely to ensure the smooth processing of benefits and ensure the provision of good quality information, advice and guidance to help young people engage with education, training or work.
Young people who are aged 16-17 can, in certain circumstances, be entitled to Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), Income Support and Incapacity Benefit (soon to be replaced by Employment Support Allowance). Those who are able to claim benefit are some of the most vulnerable young people, so it is important that claims are processed efficiently and effectively. This requires close working between Jobcentre Plus and the Connexions provider as young people wishing to claim
JSA must first register with the local authority Connexions provider before any claim can be processed.
Income Support and/or Incapacity Benefit must (unless deferred or waived) attend a learning focused interview, which is usually undertaken by the Connexions provider.
Because Jobcentre Plus is a national agency, claims and payments procedures conform to a standard model, so it is important local authorities and Connexions providers are familiar with the benefits that may be available to young people and the associated processes. Jobcentre Plus are currently producing guidance for local authorities and Connexions providers on the main benefits, claim processes and the roles / responsibilities of each organisation. This will replace the Benefits Liaison Instructions which were previously issued to Connexions partnerships. A second document, relating specifically to the needs of benefit claimants under 18 who are, or are about to become parents will also be issued shortly. Details of how Connexions and Jobcentre Plus will work together to implement both sets of guidance and serve the best interests of young people, should be contained in local partnership agreements.
Although the primary responsibility for helping 16 and 17 year olds into education, employment or training lies with local authorities, Jobcentre Plus will also provide information, advice and guidance, particularly where young people are in receipt of JSA and therefore required to be actively seeking work (with training).
Even for those young people who are not claiming benefit, Jobcentre Plus can be a good source of support for young people who do not (at that time) wish to re-engage with education and training and just want a job. The practical delivery of such support should be decided locally and documented in partnership agreements.
Under 18 Specialist Advisers in Jobcentre Plus will generally be the point of contact for Connexions staff in relation to a 16 or 17 year old's benefit issues. Their key responsibilities include:
creating and maintaining close working links with Connexions Personal Advisers;
providing young people with information advice and guidance about all benefits, employment and training;
establishing entitlement to benefit and explaining rights and responsibilities;
undertaking New Jobseeker Interviews /Severe Hardship interviews (JSA customers only);
discussing and agreeing a Jobseeker's Agreement (JSA customers only) to reflect the young person's employment and training goals/needs and steps to achieve;
making sure young people maintain the entitlement to benefit by fulfilling associated responsibilities;
conducting claim review interviews as appropriate;
arranging for Social Fund Crisis Loans as appropriate;
actioning changes of circumstances promptly;
identifying and forwarding information required by Connexions and recording this on appropriate forms.
18/19 year olds
Young people aged 18/19 have the same right of access to Jobcentre Plus services as other adults. They may also still receive help from Connexions, though this is not (unlike with 16/17 year olds) a requirement of claiming benefit. Young people aged 18/19 should be given information about Connexions as part of the new claims process, and encouraged to give their consent to their contact details being passed to the Connexions provider. This will enable the Connexions client database to be updated, and advisers to get in touch with the young person to offer help and support.
Young people claiming JSA attend a New Jobseeker Interview with a personal adviser at which they will discuss and agree job goals and steps, which, if taken, will give them the best chance of success. Beyond this, people are seen regularly (usually fortnightly) to talk about what they have been doing to find work and to see what help, if any, is required. For those young people who do not find work quickly, a more in-depth interview, with a Jobcentre personal adviser, is undertaken at 13 weeks and then at 26 weeks, which is the point at which they will enter New Deal.
New Deal for Young People (NDYP) is a mandatory programme specifically designed to address the employment issues faced by 18-24 year olds who have been claiming JSA continuously for 6 months or more. The aim of NDYP is to improve young people's chances of finding and keeping a job. Whilst on the programme, a New Deal Personal Adviser supports the young person as they re-examine their situation, take the skills and experience they have already and build on them to create better opportunities for work.
For the first 4 months of NDYP (known as the 'gateway', during which the young person should still be recorded as NEET) participants receive intensive support from their personal adviser. Those who do not find work during the 'gateway' move on to the 'options' stage of the programme, a package of full-time help which might include:
work experience/work placements with an employer or voluntary organisation;
training for a specific job;
courses to develop the skills that employers want;
practical help with applying for jobs;
From April 2008 Jobcentre Plus advisers will, at the new claims stage, identify young people with any history of being NEET and discuss the benefits of entering New Deal early. In doing so, the adviser will describe the key features of the New Deal and the help it provides, highlighting the benefits, but making clear that although early entry is voluntary, once agreed, participation is mandatory. Connexions providers can also encourage young people approaching their 18th birthday to take up the offer of early access. It is planned to make New Deal mandatory from April 2009 for young people who were NEET for 26 weeks before their 18th birthday. Arrangements have still to be finalised, but it will be important that Connexions providers can provide - from CCIS - details of the time a young person has spent NEET prior to their 18th birthday.
Programme Centres give Jobcentre Plus customers practical advice on looking for jobs, removing barriers to getting and keeping a job, and going back to work. As well as providing stamps, stationery, newspapers and access to the internet, Programme Centres also offer customers learning modules such as interview skills to support them in finding work. This service is delivered by outside organisations under contract to Jobcentre Plus.
Local Authorities may wish to take advantage of the facilities / expertise offered by Programme Centre providers and negotiate contracts with them to deliver support modules designed specifically for Connexions customers. Although funding such measures would fall to the relevant local authority, Jobcentre Plus will be able to help in nurturing arrangements with its programme centre providers.
Jobcentre plus can also support local NEET strategies by:
sharing vacancy information with Connexions;
involving/promoting Connexions in marketing activity eg employer engagement (LEP), job fairs etc;
hosting open days for small groups of young people to explain Jobcentre Plus services, demonstrate Job Points;
Jobcentre Plus advisers attending Connexions events to give talks to young people.
3 The role of the Local Authority/Connexions provider
Transition of Connexions to local authorities
The Connexions Service is currently going through a process of transition. Funding which was previously made available to 47 Connexions partnerships is, from 1 April 2008, going directly to each of the 150 top tier local authority areas. The Education and Skills Bill will propose that the statutory responsibility for Connexions services be transferred to local authorities.
Ministers have agreed that the Connexions brand is a valuable asset and should not be lost. The brand will, therefore, be retained by organisations receiving the Connexions grant to deliver services.
The role of the Connexions Personal Adviser
Connexions services are delivered through an appropriately trained work force of personal advisers providing information, advice and guidance (IAG) to young people aged 13-19. This will include:
assessment of the young person's needs;
planning and intervention: work with the young person to agree the key issues and negotiate an action plan for change and moving forward;
planning and working with parents and carers: providing information to parents and carers and encouraging their involvement in decision making;
brokerage and advocacy: securing access to specific learning, training, employment and personal development opportunities; and enabling the young person to overcome difficulties whist undertaking such opportunities;
referral to more specialised help where required e.g. on health and substance misuse issues; and
review: tracking and monitoring the young person's progress against agreed plans.
Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG)
IAG covers a range of activities and interventions that help young people to become more self-reliant and better able to manage their personal and career development, including learning. It includes:
the provision of accurate, up-to-date and objective information about: personal and lifestyle issues, learning and career opportunities, progression routes and choices; where to find help and advice, and how to access it;
the provision of advice through activities that help young people to gather, understand and interpret information and apply it to their own situation;
the provision of impartial guidance and specialist targeted support as appropriate to help young people understand themselves and their needs, confront barriers, resolve conflicts, develop new perspectives and make progress; and
support provided to schools, colleges, work-based training and other learning providers to review and develop their programmes of careers education and personal development in the curriculum.
Targeted Youth Support (TYS)
Whilst the needs of the majority of young people will be met by universal services, there is a large minority of young people who will need additional support. TYS aims to ensure that the needs of vulnerable teenagers are identified early and met by agencies working together effectively. Local authorities will be responsible for securing delivery of targeted youth support services in their areas by April 2008. Whilst the Connexions provider may be a young person's first point of contact, in depth services might be provided by other agencies such as a leaving care adviser, teenage pregnancy service, or youth offending team.
Client Caseload Information System (CCIS)
Every local authority will have a client database to monitor young people's progress. These databases must conform to a set specification, known as CCIS. Databases are generally maintained by Connexions providers, and include details of young people's current activity - critical if those who are NEET are to be identified and given appropriate support. CCIS databases can also provide aggregate information on the characteristics of young people in each area, and this is used by local authorities and the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) to plan and commission the services that young people need.
Information from Jobcentre Plus about young people who are claiming benefits must be recorded on CCIS as soon as it is received. Information on 18 and 19 year olds will only be shared if the young person has given consent to be contacted by Connexions. It is important, therefore, that this contact is made at the earliest opportunity so that the young person can be given advice.
Financial support for young people in learning
Young people who are in full time education and LSC funded training may be eligible for Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) of up to £30 per week, depending on household income, and the type of learning being taken. Their household will also retain its entitlement to Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit.
EMA is not designed to meet all of a student's living costs. Where a young person is estranged from their family they may claim welfare benefits in their own right. The receipt of EMA should not affect the payment of these benefits. Teenage parents can also claim to Care to Learn to help them with the cost of Ofsted registered childcare so they can return to learning.
EMA and Care to Learn are managed by the LSC, but Connexions advisers will help young people to find appropriate learning provision, and support them through the application process.
Example Partnership agreement between Connexions and Jobcentre Plus
This Partnership Agreement sets out an understanding between the Connexions service provider in (name of LA) and Jobcentre Plus (name of District) concerning the levels of service and standards required of each other in respect of support for young people.
This Partnership Agreement provides a clear view of the roles and responsibilities of each partner at an operational level and demonstrates a commitment by both parties to work together towards implementing the best possible approach for improving customer service to young people.
This Partnership Agreement will ensure that young people are dealt with by both organisations in an efficient and effective manner. Both parties enter in to this agreement in good faith and undertake to actively support each other in the successful delivery of services and to work together to overcome any obstacles.
The key aims of this Partnership Agreement are:
To set out the nature and standard of services that each party will provide to one another.
To ensure that young people receive as seamless and comprehensive a service as possible to the NEET customer group.
To make sure that advisers in Jobcentres and Connexions have a clear understanding of each other's roles and responsibilities
To facilitate reaching mutual agreement on any issues that cross boundaries.
To ensure that each partner is aware of and has regard for the business need of the other and as future business develops, consults the other to impact the changes.
To set out local targets and indicators relating to young people and employment, and agree the contribution that each organisation will make towards their achievement.
To set out an agreed local strategy for marketing to employers and sharing labour market intelligence.
To ensure that each partner keeps the other informed of wider initiatives/developments that might impact upon young people.
To ensure that responsibility for advising young people with learning difficulties and disabilities is passed from Connexions to Jobcentre Plus when the young person is ready to make the transition (or their 25th birthday if transition has not been made before this date).
To set out arrangements for sharing information.
To ensure that each agency has current contact details for the other.
Jobcentre Plus will:
Ensure staff, in particular those taking new benefit claims, are aware of and actively promote Connexions services to all NEET customers. (Add local arrangements for booking appointments for 16/17 and 18/19 year old customers)
Ensure NEET customers: claim appropriate benefits and are aware of their rights and responsibilities in doing so; are paid appropriate benefits promptly and accurately; access programmes (eg New Deal) designed to support them in finding work.
Fully support Connexions staff in understanding and discharging their responsibilities in supporting benefit claims made by 16/17 year olds NEET. (Add local arrangements eg named contact(s), awareness training/visits for new Connexions staff. Perhaps append role and responsibilities of local U18 Specialist Adviser)
Local arrangements for 'housing' Connexions advisers on Jobcentre Plus premises where practical.
Local arrangements for sharing vacancy information with Connexions
Local arrangements for involving/promoting Connexions in marketing activity eg employer engagement (LEP), job fairs etc.
Local arrangements for supporting 16/17 year olds NEET who are primarily looking for work but not claiming benefit (consider: hosting open days for small groups of young people to explain Jobcentre Plus services, demonstrate Job Points; Jobcentre Plus advisers attending Connexions events to give talks to young people)
Ensure personal advisers and others working with young people are aware of Jobcentre Plus services appropriate to NEET customers, and know how young people should be referred to these services.
Give basic information on benefits and Jobcentre Plus services to young people.
Support Jobcentre Plus staff in understanding the roles and responsibilities of the Connexions service (Add local arrangements for awareness training/visits)
Support young people to claim appropriate benefits promptly and correctly.
Ensure staff comply with the national standards for supporting benefit claims made by 16/17 year olds. (Add or append Connexions requirements and local delivery arrangements).
Share information on the numbers and needs of young people NEET in the area.
Make sure that Jobcentre Plus has up to date information on local learning opportunities.
Discuss with Jobcentre Plus advisers arrangements for transferring responsibility for advising young people with learning difficulties and disabilities to Jobcentre Plus.
Ensure that 18/19 year old benefit customers referred by Jobcentre Plus are interviewed and given advice appropriate to their circumstances.
Local arrangements for 'housing' Jobcentre Plus advisers on Connexions premises where practical.
Liaison and review
Both parties recognise that regular liaison and review are essential if we are to achieve our aims and deliver the standards set out above.
Arrangements to ensure that we maintain and, wherever possible, improve services to the NEET customer group are:
Monthly meetings between (names of JCP U18 Specialist Adviser and Adviser Manager) and (names of appropriate Connexions representatives) to discuss and resolve operational issues primarily in relation to the maintenance of benefit claims by 16/17 year olds
Quarterly meetings between (name of JCP District External Relations Manager) and (name of Connexions provider manager) to ensure the Partnership Agreement meets operational and strategic intent.
Annual meeting between (JCP District Manager) and (LA Director of Children's Services) to discuss high level strategy and future co-operation.