YORKSHIRE has the country’s highest level of young people who are not in employment, education or training (Neet) according to damning new figures.
The number of 16 to 24-year-olds classed as Neet in the region rose by 5,000 to 138,000 in the first quarter of the financial year, the Department for Education revealed yesterday.
It is the highest ever figure for the first quarter of a year both in Yorkshire and nationally with 954,000 young people being classed as Neet across the country.
The Government said that the figure had been “too high for too long” but claimed education reforms and investment in apprenticeships programmes would help to bring the numbers down.
In Yorkshire almost one-in-five (19.9 per cent) 16 to 24-year-olds were not in work, education or training at the end of the first quarter of the year.
This is higher than any other region of the country and almost double the level in the South East where it is 11.5 per cent.
Neet figures traditionally surge at the end of the third quarter as a new group of 16 and 18-year-olds leave the school system,
At the end of the third quarter last year the Neet figure in Yorkshire was 157,000, a record high.
Yesterday’s figure of 138,000 was 22,000 higher than at the end of the first quarter of last year.
It is also almost double the figure for Yorkshire in 2000 when 74,000 young people were classed as being Neet.
A Government spokesman said: “The number of young people not in education, employment or training has been too high for too long. We are driving up standards right across the schools system to bring the numbers down.
“We are investing almost £1bn in the Youth Contract to support 16-24-year-olds into education, training and work.
“We are creating the biggest apprenticeships programme our country has ever seen and have launched the National Careers Service to provide expert advice. We are also overhauling vocational education, so all employers can be confident about the skills of our young people and the rigour of our qualifications.”
The figures also show that the numbers of 16-18-year-olds alone who are considered Neet are rising again.
Nationally 183,000 were out of education and work in the first quarter of this year, compared to 159,000 for the same period in 2011.
This is a drop from 2009 when it stood at 220,000, a high for the first quarter of the year.
Martin Freedman, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said the figures were almost certainly an underestimate.
He added: “We think the real figure is closer to one and a quarter million.
“The Government has contributed to young people’s misery by stopping the Education Maintenance Allowance and Future Jobs Fund and thus cutting the lifeline to those who might have been in education or training.
“It is all very well and good for the Government to be encouraging companies to set up apprenticeship schemes right, left and centre, but if there aren’t any jobs for young people to go into afterwards, they will be deeply frustrated and risk falling into a vicious cycle of unemployment.”
Halifax’s Labour MP Linda Riordan accused the Government of “failing a generation of young people” after the latest figures from the DfE showed 20,000 more young people in Yorkshire were Neet than when the coalition came to power. She said: “By choosing to ignore the Neets crisis, this Government is kicking away the ladders of opportunity for the next generation.
“By scrapping the education maintenance allowance for young people staying in education and the Future Jobs Fund, and getting rid of face-to-face careers guidance, the Government is taking away support for young people to stay in education and find work at a time when they most need it.
“The Tory-led Government’s cuts in education are the biggest since the 1950s.
“Its economic strategy, which has resulted in a double dip recession made in Downing Street, is hurting and not working.”