Latest NEET figures for East of England welcomed by education and youth workers
Hard work by the region's education and youth workers appeared to be paying off yesterday as new figures showed the number of young people not in education, employment or training had dropped.
But groups supporting some of the East's most vulnerable 16 to 24-year-olds warned the trend could only continue if the government funded schemes tailored to suit their needs.
The latest figures, released by the department for education, estimate there were 85,000 16 to 24-year-olds in the East not in education, employment or training in the final three months of 2011 – 9,000 fewer so-called NEETs in this region than at the end of 2010.
It means the proportion of young people neither learning nor earning has decreased from 15.7pc to 14.2pc.
The DfE figures showed there were an extra 19,000 youngsters now classified as NEETs across England.
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Dick Palmer, City College Norwich principal, said: 'We have spent a lot of time working as part of organisations like the county council's 14-19 strategy group looking at interventions to address NEET issues and clearly many of those are working.'
Elli Chapman, director of Culture Works East, a Norwich-based arts organisation helping 'hard to reach' youngsters, said the 'future is looking bright' in this region. But she warned: 'The work that is being done is fantastic but, as somebody who is committed to this work, I know enthusiasm isn't enough on its own.'
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Mr Palmer said the government had to give that work financial support if numbers were to continue to go down. 'As long as we can get the resources, this trend will continue,' he said. 'We have the imagination, the innovation and the partnerships, but we need the money as well.'
Earlier this week deputy prime minister Nick Clegg announced the East of England was to get �13.7m to support 16 and 17-year-old NEETs as part of the coalition's �1b youth contract. Norfolk County Council recently announced a council tax grant windfall would lead to �4.5m being invested to create an extra 500 apprenticeship and work experience places in the county.
Concerns about high levels of youth unemployment have prompted a redoubling of efforts to ensure schemes are in place to support young people at risk of becoming NEET.
Chris Starkie, programme director of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: 'Partners across Norfolk and Suffolk are committed to tackling this issue, particularly through an expansion in apprenticeships.'
But Miss Chapman said she believed part of the improvement was down to employers gradually realising how valuable those young people could be.
Both youth groups and education leaders agreed there was much more hard work still to be done, with the NEET figures still 3.2 percentage points higher than 10 years ago.
Simon Summers, Lowestoft College principal, said staff were continuing to focus efforts on increasing the percentage of 16 to 18-year-olds in college so they could gain the skills needed for the workplace.
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