Urgent action needed to tackle and prevent youth unemployment


Reforms to Further Education funding, the apprenticeship levy, the skills system, careers guidance and the national curriculum are urgently needed to tackle the problem of youth unemployment, according to the House of Lords Youth Unemployment Committee.

The cross-party Committee’s report, ‘Skills for every young person’ covers a wide range of issues, including the situation of young people with SEND.

The section of the report which details the findings and recommendations in relation to SEND, young people and employment is summarised below:

In the UK, 8% of children are disabled as defined under the Equality Act 2010. More than half of all disabled children and young people also meet the definition of having special educational needs.  As of January 2021, there were 430,700 children and young people with an EHC plan. The proportion of children and young people with an EHC plan in mainstream education increased from 39% in 2020 to 40% in 2021. Despite this, 97% of schools told the National Association of Head Teachers they received insufficient funding to support pupils with additional needs. The Autumn Budget 2021 committed £2.6 billion for new school places for children with SEND in England. 

Some young people who were eligible for an EHC plan were not being put forward for assessment at the right time, making it more difficult for them to obtain one after they have left school.

The disability employment gap is the difference between the employment rate of disabled people compared to those who are not disabled. During the pandemic, the gap increased to 28.8%, from 28.1%.

Leonard Cheshire told the Committee that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing structural inequalities, “entrenching barriers to the workplace for disabled people”. One in 10 (9.3%) disabled people who were in work at the end of 2019 before the pandemic were not in work at the end of 2020, compared to one in 17 (5.8%) non-disabled people. They were also more likely to see a reduction in their hours. Young people who are disabled were more likely to have moved out of employment during the pandemic. The employment rate for the 16 to 24 age group fell by 1.8 percentage points between 2019 and 2020. 

In 2019–20 just 8.4% of pupils with an EHC plan or SEN statement progressed to HE by the age of 19. This is compared to 47.5% for pupils with no additional needs. 12.5% of apprenticeships started in 2020 were started by disabled people.

Disability charity Leonard Cheshire told the Committee that disabled young people may face prejudice from some employers. A young person at our Bolton and Lancashire engagement session told the Committee that “there should be a greater understanding and compassion for young people with disabilities”.

The Youth Voice Census found that those with additional needs were twice as likely to have never had the prospect of university discussed with them (20.1%). The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) noted that more tailored careers support for young people with SEND was required to give them and their parents access to networks that they might not have, as “you can’t be what you can’t see”.

The Government committed to increasing the number of Disability Employment Advisors (DEAs) by 315 in April 2021, but this is far beneath the 13,500 work coaches recruited by the DWP. The Shaw Trust supported the recommendations put forward by the Youth Employment Group, which included that there should be specialist programmes for young disabled people, greater provision of DEAs in line with the increase in work coaches, and an increase in provision of Supported Internships to those who had SEND support at school, not just those with an EHC Plan. The Autumn Budget 2021 committed to an additional £156 million to provide job finding support for disabled people with a focus on additional work coaches. 

A young person on a Supported Internship spoke during an engagement session in Bolton and Lancashire: “They teach us theory to do with interview skills, staying safe both in and outside of the workplace, economics etc. Then once the theory side is complete, they’re going to get us into a place of work as an intern and the course support staff are going to be going round each of the workplaces one by one to support us in our job placement. It has been a struggle for them to find companies willing to take us on due to the COVID pandemic and working from home…”. 

The Government has introduced a range of measures to support young people who have additional needs. These include the Access to Work Scheme and Work and Health Programme. Sue Lovelock, Director of Professional and Technical Education at the DfE, told the Committee the Government has introduced incentives for apprentices with an EHC Plan totalling £1,000 per person, and that it had worked with SEND advisory groups on the development of T Levels.

The Government’s National Disability Strategy, published in July 2021, outlined several measures for young disabled people. These included: 

• A review of actions to improve outcomes for children with SEND; 

• Investing £300m to improve provision in schools; 

• Investing £8.6m to strengthen the participation of parents and young people in the SEND system; 

• Improving the supported internship programme; 

• Increasing the number of disabled people in apprenticeships; 

• Piloting Access to Work adjustment passports with disabled young people in periods of transition; 

• The creation of a new Centre for Assistive and Accessible Technology; and 

• Evaluating the impact of investment in traineeships on young people with SEND by July 2022.

The conclusions and recommendations of the Committee relating to SEND young people are as follows:

In addition to the challenges young people with additional needs may face in their everyday lives, they face greater disadvantage in the labour market than their peers without additional needs. While there are a range of mechanisms in place to support young people with additional needs, the Government’s Plan for Jobs included no targeted support for people with disabilities, despite the fact they were disproportionately more likely to be affected than their peers without additional needs

The Government must explore the feasibility of offering incentive payments to employers offering supported internships, to provide parity with apprenticeships. 

The Government must recruit more Disability Employment Advisors to provide parity with the increase in work coaches, help to meet its target of getting more disabled people into work, and support better awareness of Access to Work. 

As part of its upcoming consultation on strengthening pathways to employment for disabled people, the Government must consider grant funding for a jobs guarantee for disabled young people— offering six months paid work and training accompanied by wraparound support—for any young person who has SEND and is newly unemployed. 

The Government must clearly set out how it plans to monitor and publish its progress towards achieving the ambitions set out in the National Disability Strategy.

The full report is available on the committee’s website.

SEN News Team
Author: SEN News Team

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