Almost one in four of all 16 to 19-year-olds in Herts County Council’s care are neither employed or in education or training (NEET), a new report shows.
This compares with a national average for this age range of one young person in 30, the document reports.
It was drawn up by the council’s officers for its children services panel – made up of elected councillors.
The majority of councillors at County Hall are from the Tory party, while the Liberal Democrats are the second largest political grouping on the authority.
Lib Dem spokesman for children’s services Mark Watkin described the report’s findings as ‘shameful’.
He said: “These young people are entrusted to the care of the county council and for so many to be aimlessly drifting at such a young age in a county with some of the best schools and colleges and with one of the lowest unemployment figures in the country is damning.
“I recognise that these young people present some of the highest challenges of any group.
“But if they stay unemployed and out of education for too long they will inevitably drift into crime and possibly prison, which would be totally unacceptable.
“It is critically important that the county children’s service addresses this as a matter of urgency.”
The council, in a statement, said it is committed to focusing its energies on reducing the number of young people not in education or training.
Cabinet member for children’s services Richard Roberts said: “Hertfordshire County Council recognises that the move from being a child in care to independent living can be very challenging for young people and especially for those who come into the care system in their late teens.
“We do see working with our care leavers who are Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) as a top priority and despite the risk of poor outcomes for care leavers nationally, in Hertfordshire many of our care leavers are making a successful transition to a positive future.”
The council, in the statement, said key actions it is taking to support this priority include:
– Better joint working with Jobcentre Plus to improve the employment outcomes for care leavers. All Job Centre offices now have link staff with specific responsibility for supporting care leavers into employment.
– Greater focus on looked after young people earlier in their school life, and particularly when they begin to disengage in secondary school.
– Ensuring that care leavers and children looked after have access to information and support relating to future education, employment and training pathways to inform their future career choices.
– Creation of an Independent Living Skills Programme in collaboration with Herts Young Homeless, the Virtual School and the Vulnerable Young People Team in Children’s Services.
– A robust employment strategy which continues to commit the council to supporting Children Looked After and Care Leavers by improving their access to work experience opportunities and providing vacation schemes, offering at least 12 apprenticeships per year to care leavers and providing personalised mentoring support by members our management team.