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Young Women’s Trust report: Young, Female and Forgotten?

The Young Women’s Trust published a report, ‘Young, Female and Forgotten?‘, in late 2016.

The report says: “For over a decade young women have been more likely than young men to be not in education, employment or training (NEET) and to be NEET and economically inactive (EI). At the time of writing, the most recent figures showed that 843,000 young people in the UK were NEET. Of these the majority – 434,000 – were women.”



"Since there is no agency within the UK responsible for tracking the activities of young people aged 18-24, there is no readily available ‘unknown’ rate for this group but policymakers and practitioners know they exist. Unwillingness to fulfil benefit conditions, fear of statutory agencies like DWP, support from family, the stigma associated with benefit receipt and cash-in-hand work might all be reasons not to register with JCP. While we can assume this group is diverse, in practice we cannot measure who is not claiming benefits, why or what support they need."

"When Young Women’s Trust conducted its ‘Scarred for Life’ inquiry into young women who are not in education, employment or training, it became clear there is a very large, often hidden group of out of work young women who do not count as unemployed – far larger than for young men. These young women are not regarded as unemployed because they are unable to actively seek or imminently start work. They are instead classified by government as “economically inactive”."

"And what of this term “economically inactive”? We need to do better. The phrase fails to identity the range of reasons why young people are workless, and is particularly demeaning to parents and carers, who are contributing to the economy as well as to those who are unwell and unable to work. I very much hope this report triggers more activity and a greater focus on this often-overlooked group. All of us stand to benefit if we can turn things around so that the next decade looks very different for young women whose needs are currently going unnoticed."

"For EI young mothers, there were two main barriers that successful support would need to address. The first is childcare: being able to both access and afford childcare in the right places and at the right time of day. The second is the expectation of families and communities that a good mother stays at home with her children."

"Regular, accessible and affordable transport to travel to employment support, training and work is also a barrier, especially in rural areas. In some areas, and among particular ethnic groups, travelling alone was discouraged.

EI young women’s isolation within their households and communities, often combined with low self-confidence, low self-esteem and mental health issues, was identified as a significant problem.

A more pro-active approach to helping the EI group, without sanctions or penalties to their benefits, would offer the entire group better support. This might include a positive and sustained relationship with one case worker, backed up by different local agencies working together." 

 "Overwhelmingly, there was concern about funding beyond 2018 for projects that have received EU financial support, including from the European Social Fund (ESF). In each case study area there were a number of established and valuable partnerships and strategies to help NEETs. But alongside cuts to government services and reliance on charitable funding, the uncertainty about the future of funding streams damages local areas’ abilities to plan ahead and respond to local youth unemployment and worklessness."


1. There are limitations to the NEET label. Policy-makers need a much better understanding of who is NEET and the difference between those who are ‘economically active’ and ‘economically inactive’.

2. There needs to be specific research and policy targeted towards the growing number of 18-24 year-olds who fall outside the NEET group and have ‘unknown’ destinations.

3. One person should own the NEET agenda at national level. We would like to see a Minister for young people with responsibility for the relevant areas of young people’s education, skills, employment, local government and welfare.

4. Reducing the large numbers of NEET economically inactive young women will need to consider multiple elements:

• Large numbers of NEET, economically inactive young women are claiming benefits for a long time with limited support. One-to-one support or mentorship could help them develop relationships outside their family units and ease their transition into work.

• Childcare – its affordability, accessibility and sustainability – continues to present a barrier to young mothers working or studying. Getting this right, especially for mothers who feel they should not leave their children in someone else’s care, is core to solving their exclusion from the labour market.

• Better mental health provision is required for the alarming number of young women (and young men) in the NEET group suffering from anxiety and depression and in need of support.

• Mentoring, impartial information, advice and guidance (IAG), work experience and early intervention programmes in schools are all options which should be explored by national government.

5. Re-integration programmes for NEET young people need sustainable funding. There is a particular need for clarity at local level around funding to replace European Social Fund provision.

6. Many economically inactive young women want to work, both now and in the future. Creating the right conditions for appropriate, high-quality and sustainable employment opportunities should be a policy priority.