The missing link: NEET provision in the Spring Budget

In this article for FE NEWS, Elizabeth Taylor and Jack Farnhill-Bain explore the missed opportunity to reach 485,000 able young people in the Spring Budget’s Back to Work proposals and debate how best to support NEET young people outside of the Jobcentre Plus ecosystem.

The Budget’s recognition of the role that economically inactive people could play in rebuilding the economy, and the measures set out to encourage greater numbers of them into work, makes sense.

Targeted support was announced for several groups, including disabled people and those with long-term health conditions, over 50s, low-earners and parents on Universal Credit.

Measures such as increasing the amount people on Universal Credit can claim in childcare, as well as paying those costs upfront; the scrapping of the Capability Assessment for those with disabilities; and pension changes to encourage older people to return to work, will all have their part to play.

The challenge is clear: there are more than a million vacancies in the economy and one-fifth of the working population is economically inactive – out of work and not looking for work.

But there is one sizable group of that economically inactive population that does not seem to have been catered for – young people.

Nearly 800,000 16–24-year-olds are NEET

According to the Office for National Statistics there are nearly 800,000 16–24-year-olds not in education, employment or training (NEET).

Data from the 2022 Labour Force Survey shows that 12.3 per cent of 16–24-year-olds are NEET, a rise of nearly two per cent from the previous year. In some areas, such as the North West, the NEET rate is as high as 17.2 per cent, up by 5.5 per cent from the previous year.

So not only is the national picture concerning, but there are also pockets of deprivation where the number of NEET young people is a serious problem.

NEET young people make up 12 per cent of the 6.5 million economically inactive people in the UK and a report by The Prince’s Trust and the Learning and Work Institute shows that 485,000 of these are both able and willing to work.

This is a significant number that could provide an important boost to the UK’s labour market and economy, given the right support.

The Budget includes an extension of funding for the Youth Offer, which provides specialist job coach support for young people who can be referred to Youth Hubs by Jobcentre Plus. However, it wasn’t one of the Budget’s headline measures and coverage is limited, with only 150 Youth Hubs nationwide.

Additionally, not every NEET young person is on Universal Credit and engaging with a Jobcentre.

The Budget also aims to strengthen the sanction regime within Universal Credit, promising that job search requirements will be applied more ‘rigorously’.

For young people on the fringes of society, who have fallen through the cracks of education, employment, or training, there is little evidence that sanctions will work, according to a report in The Guardian about an internal study by the Department for Work and Pensions.

The report states the study, commissioned in 2019, showed no evidence that benefit sanctions incentivised people to get work, but could have a negative effect on claimants’ health and finances.

Considering that one in five NEET young people reports having a mental health condition, it is questionable whether the Jobcentre Plus ecosystem is the correct way to encourage this group of young people to enter the labour market.

Expand the Youth Offer programme

We believe there should be an expansion the Youth Offer programme and that the Government should be looking outside the Jobcentre network to specialists who have the knowledge and connections to deal with the NEET problem.

The employment support sector, represented by ERSA, knows there are many experienced and effective organisations working on youth provision. Some of their work aligns with Jobcentre Plus through national programmes such as the Restart Scheme and the Work and Health programme, but also with very localised provision.

Employment support providers have a proven track record of community-based engagement with young people, as well as employers, and education and training providers in their communities.

Two examples among ERSA members are The Prince’s Trust, which has helped over one million young people, with three in four entering some form of education, employment, or training, and the Paddington Development Trust, which supports NEET young people to find work in their community and has the necessary knowledge to do so.

Of course, encouraging back into work those who have recently left it and who have the skills the country needs, is an obvious short-term solution and a key theme of the Budget.

It shouldn’t be at the expense of those young people

But it shouldn’t be at the expense of those young people who could give an undeniable boost to the UK labour market and help to combat the economic challenges of inflation, low growth and national debt.

We know the employment support sector has answers to labour market shortages and economic inactivity. We understand the differences between those who are voluntarily and involuntarily not seeking work and recognise that employment support needs to be tailored to the individual.

While we welcome the drive to remove barriers to employment for some economically inactive groups, we urge recognition that young people should be regarded equally as beneficiaries of the sort of measures included in the Budget. And we would recommend initiatives highlighting the benefits of work are delivered in schools or else the current dilemma could be with us for generations to come.

Supporting NEET Young People into work

Supporting NEET Young People into work 

ERSA and the Education Development Trust are undertaking a research project about young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET), with a particular emphasis on care experienced young people.

Currently, 12.6% of people aged 18 to 24 are NEET, which amounts of around 675,000 people. Perhaps even more worryingly, the rate has only decreased 2.2 percentage points since the data started being collected in 2002.

For care leavers, the numbers are more concerning with 41% of 19 to 21 year olds not in education, employment and/or training. This combined with their increased likelihood to be involved with the criminal justice system, live in insecure housing/homelessness and have lower levels of mental wellbeing makes them one of the most disadvantaged groups in society.

In this project, we’re particularly keen to find out how the employment support sector helps care leavers on their employment journey and which of these practices work best.

We’re asking ERSA members and the wider employability sector to spend around 15 minutes on a survey how they support young people on their programmes into education, employment and/or training.

The deadline for the survey is Tuesday 28 February at 5pm and it can be accessed here.

In the survey you can choose to remain anonymous or provide your organisation’s name, whichever you prefer. The data will only be seen by the two researchers named below, stored securely and deleted after project completion. All data will be presented as aggregated, anonymised data in the final report so you won’t be identifiable.

  • Henry Foulkes, Policy and Public Affairs Lead, ERSA 
  • Dr Madeleine Winnard, Education Development Trust 

We hope the findings will contribute to ensuring the evidence base is robust so that sound recommendations to help NEET young people can be generated – all responses are greatly appreciated!

If you have any questions relating to the survey you can contact and

Youth Futures Foundation launch an ambitious, national funding programme


Today, Youth Futures Foundation, launched an ambitious, national funding programme that hopes to generate vital learning and evidence to improve services for young people who need it most.

Anna Smee, Cheief Executive of Youth Futures Foundation said; 

It has been our longstanding intention to launch our grants programmes in Spring 2020, with the objective to find, fund, support and evaluate promising practice and to understand what works when tackling youth unemployment. We have carefully considered the impact of Coronavirus on this programme, and absolutely recognise that the outbreak is an exceptional event that will have a significant impact on both civil society groups supporting young people to acquire skills and access opportunities, and the employers seeking to hire and train them. We wish to be as helpful as possible during the coming weeks and months so that civil society groups can focus on the vital work of supporting some of the most vulnerable young people in our communities. After listening to organisations who are currently delivering services for young people, we have decided to proceed with our funding launch as the feedback indicated that many organisations are finding innovative ways to continue delivering and making plans for the coming years, and need to know how these activities will be funded.’

This new Impact Fund will be distributed to organisations across England that have a promising track record of supporting young people who face barriers to accessing employment. We will fund delivery work and related overhead costs for specific programmes, entire organisations, partnerships or consortiums. Our aim is to fund in the most helpful and flexible way possible for grant recipients. In addition, the Youth Futures Foundation will provide capacity building support to help organisations strengthen and grow their work. The Impact Fund will be a rolling programme (with formal review points rather than separate rounds) meaning organisations can apply throughout the year.

The launch of this fund is an important first step in our ability to build a lasting, robust evidence base of what works to help those young people who face the most challenges moving into work. Our aim is that this learning can help to better support policy makers, employers, funders and commissioners to ensure that all young people can pursue meaningful and sustained economic pathways for the future.


Our rolling grants programme is designed to find, fund, support and evaluate promising practice. Funding will go to organisations working with young people aged 14-24 to help overcome barriers to finding meaningful work. We are looking for approaches that can be tested, evaluated and, where proven to be effective, expanded to more young people.

We want to partner with organisations that share our values and are committed to learning, investing in good practice and sharing what works to transform the youth employment landscape.


  1. Development Grants
  2. Impact Grants

Development Grants

Impact Grants


Level of financial support available

£30,000 – £100,000 pa for delivery and development

Circa £100,000 – £800,000 pa for delivery +
An independent evaluation paid for separately by Youth Futures


1-2 years

1-5 years

Supporting towards employment

Over 50 young people per year

Over 150 young people per year

Full details and how to apply can be found at