Increasing NEETs linked to EMA cut

Rising numbers of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) are being linked to the axing of the education maintenance allowance (EMA).

Latest data, released yesterday by the Department for Education (DfE), shows the proportion of 16-18 year-olds classified as being NEET increased by one per cent to 9.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2011 (178,000), compared to 2010 (162,000).

The DfE in their statistical release say the increase is not “statistically significant” and instead point to the decline of 16-18 year-olds who are in work – down from 47 per cent to 40 per cent – as being noteworthy.

However, the Save EMA campaign have compiled analysis which shows a decline in NEET statistics in every Quarter 4 for 16-18 year-olds after the allowance’s introduction in 2004, before a rise last year – after the EMA was scrapped.

The scheme was replaced by the £180 million Bursary Fund last year which ministers say is “more targeted” than the EMA.

James Mills, head of Save EMA, said:  “The sad news that the number of NEETs is up is further proof that scrapping the EMA was a massive mistake by this government. Previous Q4 figures have shown a steady decline in the number of NEETs and are indicative proof that EMA worked. By scrapping EMA this government is creating a lost generation of young people and these figures are proof that there is now a growing invisible army of teenagers who have been cut loose by this government’s decision to scrap EMA.”

Save EMA say the importance of Quarter 4 data is it shows those teenagers who have not enrolled into further education after September of that year. They also admit that NEET figures could be caused by a “flagging” economy.

However, when coupled with the Association of Colleges’ (AoC) survey in October, which showed enrolment at 49 per cent of colleges was down, and last month’s unemployment figures, showing an increase in 16-17 year old unemployment, Save EMA say “these NEET figures are further indicative proof that scrapping EMA was the wrong decision.”

Meanwhile, the figures also show the proportion of 19-24-year-old NEETs decreased by 0.1 per cent – but the figure rose from 777,000 to 780,000.

The proportion for 16-24-year-old NEETs increased by 0.3 per cent – from 939,000 to 958,000.

However, the government is determined to tackle the problem.

A government spokesperson said: “The number of young people who are not in education, employment or training has been too high for too long – we are determined to bring the numbers down.

“We are making sure young people have the skills they need to get ready for work – creating the biggest apprenticeships programme our country has ever seen and overhauling vocational education, so all employers can be confident about the rigour of our qualifications.”