Education & Family

Early intervention schemes 'at risk of closure'

The Positive Activities for Young People scheme provides programmes for under-achieving youths at risk of becoming NEETs, and is part of the government's early intervention programme to break "the cycles of underachievement which blight some of our poorest communities". But as the government looks to rein in spending, the scheme could be abolished.

Sixteen-year-old Jonathan's younger brother died last year. He lost his father when he was at primary school and his grandfather died earlier this year.

"It just made me feel angry. I felt like I wanted to kick and scream and when I went to school it made me angrier because everyone was looking at me.

"I felt lonely and kept walking out of classes to be alone.

"I was hanging out with the wrong people and drinking in the park," he said.

Jonathan's poor attendance at school and his anger problem prompted the school to refer him to Connexions, an advice, information and guidance service for young people.

They allocated Jonathan a personal adviser, Paul Rice, who put him on an early intervention scheme for young people at risk of becoming NEET- not in employment, education or training.

Paul visits Jonathan and his family at home, and speaks to his teachers.

Jonathan attended group education sessions and outdoor activity activities with other young people and his family.

"My relationship with my mum was really bad at the time because we were arguing. We were falling apart.

"But it's different now, I react differently to her instead of shouting and swearing," he said.

Since starting on the programme, Jonathan's attendance at school has improved and he has started volunteering at the local youth centre.

He starts at college in September to train as an electrician - something he could not have imagined doing last year.

The scheme is paid for by the local authority with Positive Activities for Young People (PAYP) funding, which will come to an end next year.

Paul Rice says they are waiting to find out if it will be extended.

"With early prevention we do a lot of personal development and raising aspirations. If PAYP did not exist next year, that would be a massive gap in my opinion in terms of support for young people.

"The programme is integral. We are an intensive support team - we react immediately, not three months or six months down, and work with the whole family.

"PAYP has a massive impact on retention in school, on attainment, on persistent absenteeism, on future NEET levels, raising aspirations.

"It's had a bigger impact than I thought the project would when it started nine years ago," he said.

'Uncertain' future

For the young people it benefits, the loss of schemes like PAYP could make the future even more uncertain in difficult times.

Rice says the percentage of young people who are NEET was falling, but unemployment in Knowsley is high: one in three people is unemployed, one in five people has no qualifications.

Last year 7% of Liverpool's population claimed job seeker's allowance; the national average was 4.1%.

Image caption PAYP provides confidence and skill building activities to teenagers at risk of becoming NEETs

Mike Taylor, deputy chief executive of Liverpool Vision, a publicly-funded company responsible for attracting private investment to Liverpool, admits that a lot of the economic success of the last five years has not benefited poorer communities.

Only one other city in the UK - Burnley - has a higher percentage of low-skilled workers.

"We do have to recognise that skills gap has the potential to hold us back," said Mr Taylor.

"So while we are rightly pursuing high end growth, we've also got to be aware that we have a lot of people socially excluded from the economy and how we make those two ends meet.

"Even during 2008 when the recession started to bite we managed to increase the number of businesses to the city, we managed to have a small increase in the number of jobs," he said.

"We have the building blocks in place and the right range of economic assets to demonstrate that Liverpool is a viable, attractive investment destination that ultimately will feed economic opportunity right down to our young people, and those people who are seeking jobs through the job seeker's allowance," he said.

Hear more in a series of reports on early intervention schemes on The World Tonight, Radio 4, 2200 BST weekdays, or listen again on the BBC iPlayer

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