Children and young people are fulfilling their potential and achieving their goals by accessing local inclusive further education, work and training opportunities
Young people with SEND have a right to work and training opportunities that meet their individual needs, interests, and aspirations. In Devon, we will work together to make sure we are providing the right support, at the right time, to enable and empower more young people with SEND to take part in employment and training opportunities. We will engage with individual young people to find out their aspirations but also enhance their skills and confidence in local opportunities. We will work closely with local employers in the area to encourage them to expand opportunities and tailored support and guidance for young people with SEND.
We ensure young people with SEND are supported through key transitions between stages of their education and training. We are responsible for identifying, tracking, and monitoring any young person who is failing to participate in education or training post-16, or who are at risk of this. As a result, we put in place additional, targeted support alongside schools, colleges, and others to enable the young person to engage with education, training, or employment. Finally, we are expected to focus on groups of young people, aged 16-18, who may have vulnerabilities which cause them to be at increased risk of becoming NEET. For young people with an EHCP, this duty is extended to the age of 25.
While young people with SEND achieve comparatively better educational outcomes in Devon when compared nationally, young people with SEND face significant challenges when competing in the local jobs market, access to employment and training opportunities that meet their individual skills, needs and interests. The proportion of young adults with a disability who are economically inactive is roughly twice that of those without a disability. We understand there are a number of reasons for this gap and we are wanting to address these; a lack of confidence amongst employers, individual challenges around aspiration and ambition, flexibility of training and learning offers in individual sectors, local barriers around transport access and support availability. Collectively, these can often make the journey to work or further training for a young person a far greater step than it should be. We will work to improve this.
The pandemic has further complicated this picture. Employers now face both additional pressures in recruitment and retention, as well as the crisis itself badly affecting traditional sectors of strength for the employment of young people (tourism, hospitality, and leisure). As a result, youth unemployment, in Devon, across all 18-24 year-olds is 2.5x greater than it was before the pandemic (February 2021 vs February 2020). The current claimant count for 18-24 year-olds in Devon is 6.6%, compared with just 2.7% in early 2020. This is greater than the impact on the adult population as a whole.
Some evidence is already beginning to emerge of a disproportionate impact on those with more complex needs. The proportion of disabled people, across all ages who are either unemployed or economically inactive has increased from 45.9% to 47.7% in the year to December 2020. While non-disabled people have also seen a rise during COVID, it has been smaller: from 17.8% to 18.9%. Positively, however, evidence suggests that funded training and learning opportunities have remained more buoyant in Devon, limiting NEET levels of young people with SEND to date. For example, between April and December 2020, NEET rates for young people with an EHCP have dropped from 12.2% to 10.3% thanks to targeted work to enrol young people on FE learning and training courses.
Long-term absence from education, training or employment can have damaging impacts not only on an individual’s physical and mental wellbeing, but also on the lives of those around them (particularly dependents), as well as on wider society through lost economic output and increased costs to public budgets. The dependency ratio – the proportion of those of working age compared to those under the age of 18 or who are retired – in Devon is projected to rise over the next 20 years as a result of our aging local population. This places additional emphasis on maximising the number of the working age population who are active players in the local economy. Ensuring high participation for young people with SEND in the labour market, therefore, has substantial cumulative benefits for the individual, their family, community, and wider society around them.
 Disabled people in employment, Briefing Paper 7540, House of Commons Library. Published on 1 April 2021, available online at: Disabled people in employment – House of Commons Library (parliament.uk)
Where we are now
Partners within Devon have come together to develop a shared approach to preventing those at-risk becoming NEET and improving the wrap-around support we offer individuals to stay economically or educationally active. The shared approach is guided by Devon County Council’s NEET Reduction Strategy 2020-23, which sets out in more detail the actions being taken locally to increase participation in education, employment or training.
At present, Devon County Council’s Employment and Skills service has a range of jointly commissioned activity focused on NEET reduction, most of which is held in partnership with multiple other partners.
There are three core parts to commissioned NEET reduction services some of which are universally available but through which children and young people with SEND are a priority group:
- Post 16 Transitions Service – A jointly commissioned core service, working with Cornwall, Plymouth, and Torbay, to provide our statutory transition function. Delivered by CSW Group, the service provides for both our tracking responsibilities and one-to-one intervention service with young people with SEND. The service supports a total of 24,000 young people, of which 1,300 have SEND
- Careers Hub – A shared service covering the Somerset, Plymouth, Devon and Torbay area, the Careers Hub provides a support for advice and guidance provision in all mainstream and secondary special schools provision across the County. The service, co-founded between the Careers Enterprise Company, HotSW LEP and the four local authorities, provides the area’s primary careers support capacity for young people of school age (with a focus on years 10-11) in line with the National Careers Strategy. Every year 10 and 11 aged young person in Devon is supported by the universal Careers Hub offer. There is a more targeted offer for FE colleges (16+) which reaches around a third of all young people aged 16 and above. The online portal for the Careers Hub is the Skills Launchpad which provides information and advice about skills, careers, training and jobs across the HoTSW region.
- Specialist and One Off Support Services / Educational Support Services – In addition to the Creative Innovation and Growth (CIAG) and Transition services, those who are NEET and at risk of NEET are also able to draw upon a range of wider educational and support capacity through the Council’s Educational support service (working with Babcock) and specialist support services provided by social care. In addition, a range of European and Nationally funded provision for young people is also available locally, organised via schools and colleges, to support young people to remain in education, work or training. This includes direct provision through Job Centre Plus for those young people accessing Universal Credit, notably through the Job Entry Targeted Support (JETS) contract, currently delivered by SEETEC Pluss.
Heart of the South West Skills Launchpad
The Skills Launchpad is the central online skills and employment hub covering the local authority areas of Devon, Plymouth, Somerset, and Torbay. It aims to connect employers, jobseekers, teachers, parents, and local services to support the up-skilling and employment of our local population, as well as the dynamism and growth of the regional economy.
In light of the additional pressures on the labour market caused by COVID-19, Exeter Works has been developed to support people across the city into work and training. The programme offers both an online offer and a face-to-face drop-in centre by appointment. The online portal offers advice, guidance, and support to anyone looking for a new job or training opportunities in the Exeter area. There are dedicated pages for young people, aged 16-24, to access information about FE courses, traineeships, apprenticeships, Kickstart placements, graduate opportunities, Youth Hubs, and other programmes targeted at young people.
The Youth Hub is the face-to-face offer of Exeter Works. The Hub itself is in the centre of Exeter and provides a drop-in space where anyone claiming universal credit can be referred to for support into employment or training. A focus will be on young people aged 16-24 who are claiming universal credit and are at risk of long-term unemployment. A variety of multi-disciplinary services will be available from the Youth Hub to provide support and guidance for young people with SEND to directly access education, employment, or training opportunities near them, or improve their readiness for work or training.
“Be Ready” Employer Hub
The Be Ready Employer Hub supports Devon-based businesses, charities, social enterprises and the public sector to understand and build on the benefits of employing (and keeping) adults with disabilities and / or long-term health conditions. Our focus is on the ability and talent of individuals to highlight the business benefits of having a more diverse and inclusive workforce – from recruiting new roles to supporting existing employees (83% of disabilities develop during a person’s working life). As a fully funded service, we provide training (online and onsite), information and a telephone call-back service – all free-of-charge to Devon-based employers.
What we will do
In response to, the needs analysis data above we have set the priorities below. We will develop more feedback from children, young people, parents and carers on young people’s experiences of accessing these opportunities:
- Work closely across the partnership to understand the impacts of the pandemic on the employment prospects of the 16-25 age group, with a particular focus on vulnerable groups including SEND and care-experienced young people, in order to guide our wider economic recovery and ensure no one is left behind
- Track and monitor the NEET status of young people with SEND to guide the delivery of early one-on-one interventions for individual young people to improve their life chances into education and employment, also to inform strategic planning by sharing data and intelligence with key stakeholders where appropriate
- Embed and encourage a set of shared values for all Devon County Council services and partner agencies to support young people with SEND to participate in education, employment and training opportunities, acknowledging that it requires a truly multi-disciplinary and holistic approach
- Understand better the needs of our care-experienced population – many of whom have SEND – to expand and better tailor the employment and training opportunities that are available to them in Devon
- Make progress against the stated ambitions, actions, and outcomes of the NEET Reduction Strategy, building it into the Partnership’s broader strategic aims in the Children and Young People’s Plan
How we will know we are making a difference
Outcomes for children and young people
- More young people with SEND will be education, employment, or training:
The proportion of young people with SEND, in years 12-14, who are identified as being not in education, employment, or training (NEET), will be reduced from 12.2% in April 2020 to 7% by April 2023 – 2% below the current national average. As of January 2021, the proportion has already reduced to 9.2% of young people with SEND who are NEET.
Outcomes for services
- We will have made demonstrable progress against the stated ambitions, actions, and outcomes of the NEET Reduction Strategy and it will have greater awareness among partners who will share in its delivery
- Building in employment and training opportunities into a broader range of procurement activity by the end of 2022, working with commissioners to join existing work and learning offers, emerging service renewal and wider commissioning to better align opportunities
- Jointly commissioned employability skills support, focused on working with young people, employers, and partners services to ensure national offers and local provision are tailored to meet individual requirements.