Category Archives: Employment and employability skills

On youth unemployment, Nick Clegg’s promise & the Youth Contract


Promises, promises, promises… I do not know who first uttered those words, to what effect and in what context, but it seems apt as I begin to gather my thoughts about the latest pronouncements by our Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg on youth unemployment.

First, I must confess to being a tad discontented that in my search for a particular speech by Nick Clegg to promote the Youth Contract, I am being driven again and again to the Liberal Democrats & a plethora of websites. Hmm and ho-hum. It seems little has changed as our third party cling to the cloak of respectability, but seem aggrieved to credit the speech to our Coalition Government.

The Deputy Prime Minister is today [Thursday 5th January 2012] hosting a roundtable discussion with business leaders, including senior representatives from some of the UK’s top businesses including Marks and Spencer, John Lewis, BT and Asda, to hear from them about how they offer young people work, training and apprenticeships in their organisations and discuss the Youth Contract. Nick Clegg will also launch a new website – for employers across Britain to sign up to the Youth Contract.

So, I read on to discover a little more –

Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government are determined to tackle the growing problem of youth unemployment, which Nick Clegg described as “an economic waste and a slow burn disaster”. The aim of the Youth Contract is to ensure that all jobless young people are earning or learning again before long-term damage is done. Over three years, the Youth Contract will provide at least 410,000 new work places for 18 to 24-year-olds into work.

I ponder at these words and consider – are not the Conservatives also determined to tackle the growing problem of youth unemployment? In this choice of words there is much that disquiets, for what it says about the uneasy relationship between our Coalition partners.

For your perusal, here is Nick Clegg’s own site and comment on the Youth Contract –

Now, I digress and must return to my concerns.

Further details of the Youth Contract may be found via this newly established website –

There are many promises being made in the Youth Contract. These include –

  1. 410,000 18 – 24 year olds will be helped into the workplace
  2. £1billion funding will be committed to tackling youth unemployment
  3. Wage susbidies will be offered to get 160,000 young people into paid work and 260,000 into work experience placements
  4. At least 20,000 more incentive payments will encourage employers to take on young apprentices

Promises aside, the stick that enforces will also ensure that –

  1. Those young people who do not engage with the programme will be made to attend work training with Jobcentre staff
  2. Anyone who drops out of a work experience placement or subsidised job will lose their benefits

In my work within special educational needs, it is possible to see first hand the impact of youth unemployment, of the protracted effects of long-term unemployment, and of the great strides that need to be taken if we are even partly to understand what may unite our young, unemployed and most vulnerable members of society, with the world of work.

There is much information available on our NEET population, one useful link being –

From this and many sources of information, we know that, at October 2011 –

Young people with special educational needs are three times more likely to be out of school, work, or training than their peers, official figures suggest.

More than a third (39 per cent) of 19-year-olds with a statement of SEN are “NEET” – not in education, employment or training – according to figures published by the Department for Education.

In comparison, 12 per cent of 19-year-olds with no special educational needs are considered NEET.

More than a fifth of pupils in England (21 per cent), around 1.67 million in total, have special educational needs

My concerns range far and wide, when I consider the Youth Contract and its likely impact on young people with SEN/LDD. In an endeavour to narrow my focus, I will list my concerns as thus –

  1. There has been little focus on the role of schools and colleges to champion the Youth Contract through its publicity material or Nick Clegg’s focus with leading UK business. There is a need to forge greater links between education and employment or training and it seems a folly not to invite key players to the table;
  2. There are inherent assumptions about the capacity of Jobcentres and their workforce to meet and address the needs of the majority of its clientele, those with special educational needs and/or disabilities. From my own experience, I would say that many are remarkably ill-equipped to understand and meet the needs of our most vulnerable young people;
  3. There are few real incentives still for employers to take on those young people for whom employment will create an additional burden, in place of those who may be equipped with skills to begin employment immediately. Those companies and businesses who regard highly their social responsibilities towards all members of society do remarkable work with young people with SEN, but there is insufficient support for all businesses to play their part;
  4. There remains an inadequate understanding about those who comprise the majority of our NEET population between politicians and business. Those who are best placed to understand in intimate detail individual barriers and constraints to employment or training, remain in our schools and colleges – those former teachers and mentors of our vulnerable young. Whilst they remain out in the cold, and do not have a seat at the table, discussions about how we improve this drastic state of affairs will be limited to speculation and the wavering of our proverbial stick.
  5. There is a need for politicians and our Government to take more seriously the role that crafts and traditional trades can play in regenerating our local communities and re-engaging our young with meaningful employment and training opportunities. The make-shift world of engineered opportunities that Jobcentres excel at, really affords no great gain, least of all for those young people who know that yet again, their real interests, skills and motivation matter little in the games that people play.

There is so much that I could say, always so much that concerns me about the direction successive governments take in their drive to resolve the issues of the day.

For my part, it seems to me we must look beyond the box, and raise our heads to see what is the problem, who are most affected, what are the likely outcomes of our actions, who do we harm the most in our policy initiatives, where might our solutions lie?

An organization I’ve been made aware of via LinkedIn with a similar concern at heart is –

Finally, I will close with a reference to the wonderful work of the Craft Council and direct you to their site. It is inspiring stuff.  Now, why were not this body at the roundtable with Nick Clegg?


On families united & routes into that elusive world of work


I am an intermittent blogger, posting here and there as the mood takes me, mindful neither of reader numbers, of timely intervals or of continuity. So, I lay no great claims to a regular, loyal and commited readership, and my chances of appearing on a WordPress Hall of Fame, remain remote. But that does not mean I am indifferent of the power of the blog to inspire, to be the catalyst that unites, that drives action, however that may be attained.

So, it is to WordPress that I turn to set in motion thoughts and ideas that are forming as I write, that remain nebulous as the clouds above, yet still drive me on to bring my thoughts alive.

Families – what is it that unites us, that is homogeneous, that we may see in family groups the world over, across boundaries of geography, race and culture?

In families we have that great diversity of employment experience – those family members who are employed and those for whom the world of work remains elusive, or at best, is fraught with difficulties, with low wages, uncertainty, poor prospects and limited opportunity.  

Today, I have met with a young adult with learning difficulties, for whom employment at the age of 24 remains as problematic and elusive as it was after leaving college, with few qualifications and a deeply embedded fear of figures in authority , at the age of 18. What strikes me is how it can be possible, in many family contexts, to have one or more members of that family for whom the search for employment and with it, a degree of independence, is a constant and recurring source of distress, unease and frustration. The distress, unease and frustration spills over so that it takes on a life of its own, impacting not only on the individual concerned, but the family also.

This young man is one in a total of 1.02 million young people aged between 16 and 24 years out of work –

My young companion, describing the experiences he endures as he strives to complete his required job applications for Jobseekers Allowance, commented that he had seen the news and it said that over one million young people were unemployed. He accepts his fate with a complicated mix of resignation, anger, despair and at times, short-lived hope and anticipation that this time, this application may bring an end to this prolonged period of unemployment, may give some purpose to his days and to his existence.

So, what has inspired me to post today, on routes into that elusive world of work?

It is my view that there is an urgent need for employers to consider their social responsibilities, including to the locality of their business and to the families of those whom they employ.

I would like employers large and small, to offer a ‘family united’ day at work, where employees may take in one family member for whom employment remains elusive, to experience first hand, the benefits of employment.

I see huge social gains and benefits emerging from this one action.

  1. The opportunity for the employed to share something of their experiences with other family members
  2. To encourage paths into employment that may remain beyond the aspiration or expectations of those long term unemployed
  3. To develop and foster a sense of community in the workplace
  4. To develop and foster positive relations between fractured family members who have been torn apart by inequalities in employment, income and prospects
  5. To support businesses to realize their social responsibility
  6. To support families to consider the social and emotional needs of those within their own immediate family circle
  7. To re-motivate the long-term unemployed through awareness of the positive social and health benefits of employment
  8. To negate negative experiences of the search for employment and the resentments towards employers that many young people harbour
  9. To help raise awareness within small and large businesses of the direction and actions they must take to encourge more young people with LDD or with poor employment prospects, to apply for and take up positions in the workplace
  10. To raise awareness amongst business owners and large-scale employers of the needs of the young people who remain on the outskirts of society

Tell me your thoughts? How may this be achieved? Is there anyone who has such a scheme in place or may be willing to trial a ‘Famiies United’ day at work’?

Please comment and do give some thought to my plea – something more than at present must be done to make a difference to the lives of so many young people.

The Local Offer – What does that mean for young people with LDD?


Young person in needAt a training event in 2011 for the National Connexions Network, I talked about the ‘Local Offer’ and what that might mean to those adults working with young people with LDD. This post continues to feature as highly viewed in my wordpress stats and I thought it might be helpful to re-visit it and add further reflection and detail.

The post continues thus –

In a group activity I’d devised, there were excellent responses from the 25 delegates attending, to the question:

What does the local offer mean to you? How does it translate to reality in your locality?

It was clear from the responses given, despite a theoretical excellence, that many energetic, committed and talented people, are still waiting to be guided into a greater understanding of the ‘local offer’. It remains as out of reach as the stars in the night sky.

I began my post-event note making, writing up flip chart notes and all that goes hand in hand with such events. I deviated, and before long, my thoughts, harboured in some safe place, had come to light. Here are those thoughts, which I do hope may make some difference to the actions that others take, as they play their role in the local offer, or advise others how to do the same.

My passion is about bringing real choice to the education market-place for all young people. This involves educating all people, parents included, at the earliest possible stage in a young person’s life, about all the choices of curriculum, of education, of placement, of support, that are available in a locality, in a region.

Sometimes, those choices, real and accessible though they may be, do not fit adult expectations of what SEN support should be about, and so they are excluded from the agenda.

Many years ago, iin my local authority, it was not uncommon to be aware of rich and varied timetables and schedules of activity for children and young people with, or without, a Statement of SEN. The young person might attend weekly Riding for the Disabled classes, or special swimming classes, or have sports activities geared around their needs, or have village and woodland walks and explorations, or shopping expeditions to try out core skills with key support staff. 

This quite flexible and innovative approach to a broad and relevant curriculum has gone out of the window as schools, driven by league tables and external pressures, are ever more focused on an increasingly narrow curriculum, one that frequently combines additional work in English & Maths as a sole focus of SEN support.

Riding for the disabled

Here are some useful links –

Swimming for the disabled

The child who leaves primary education with barely functional skills in literacy and numeracy, is highly unlikely to make up that deficit on entering mainstream secondary education. Placement issues have long been taken from the agenda but need to be brought back to the table, not just at key transition times, but throughout a young person’s life. Curriculum matters and breadth and diversity of curriculum needs to be at the forefront of planning and thought.

A change of placement, considering all educational settings that the locality or region has to offer, should not necessarily, as is so often the case, mean a change for the duration of the young person’s life. Much that it is hard for any parent to see their child move schools without their peers, sometimes a change is necessary to ensure that good quality education, curriculum and support is available and in place. 

There is a need always to consider – What are the life chances and opportunities an educational setting can offer to the children and young people it serves?   What are the choices available, the local offer, to that young person at this particular stage in their life?

The local offer begins essentially with our choice of curriculum, our choice of school and our choice of support and professional expertise. Knowing what is available in an area – thorugh a brokerage system or other – and what is attached to that provision, should be part of key information about SEN and/or disability (SEND) that is provided to all parents and carers of children with SEND.

It should never be the case that parents have to battle and agitate and fight to get what provision they believe should be their child’s right.

It should never be the case that parents are forced to become their own best counsel, up-grading their knowledge and skills to understand their child’s needs so that they may determine what is in their best interest – yet that is frequently the case.

Beyond school are the choices young people make and are encouraged and supported to make, about how they use their own time and how they develop their own personal and social skills. Understanding a young person’s education, employment or training needs is also about understanding that young person’s current lifestyle and lifestyle choices.

The local offer will mean many different things to many people, and will be greatly influenced by our environment, by what is the context and wealth or dearth of opportunity, within the local area. It will also be influenced heavily by the decisions and actions those adults take, who have a responsibility for delivering education, health and social care services.

The widest possible choices and opportunities should exist for all young people, regardless of special educational need or disability. How we project that widest possible choice is down to each of us, as we carry out our daily duties in the field of special educational need and learning difficulties and/or disability.


My regards to you all.