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Hope for drifting teenage 'Neets'

The tide of teenagers who fail to take up education or employment after they leave school can be reversed, according to the advice service Connexions.

Its confidence is contrary to gloomy figures from the Office of National Statistics which show a slight increase in the proportion of 16 to 18-year-olds who are "not in education, employment or training" - known as Neets.

Anne Weinstock, chief executive of Connexions, predicts the trend will be reversed as her organisation begins to be effective in its new role. The last of the Connexions partnerships around the country was formed in April 2003. Their job is to work with other organisations, including youth services and colleges, to help teenagers gain access to the help they need, including careers guidance and college courses.

Connexions has set itself the target of reducing the number of teenage Neets by 10 per cent by November 2004. Ms Weinstock believes it will be able to produce figures later this month which will show it is "moving in the right direction".

Latest national statistics appear to show the proportion of 16 to 18-year-olds Neets has increased from 8.5 per cent to 9 per cent of the age group between 1999 and 2001.

Ms Weinstock said: "There is a danger that people will blame Connexions for this but we have set a target for this time next year and, when that comes around, we would be very concerned if the number of Neets is still increasing.

"Of course, some will say Connexions has not made any difference but we have not yet had time to prove we have made a difference - which I'm confident we will do.

"The problem with the Office of National Statistics figures is some of these young people have never been in the system so they aren't registered anywhere. With Connexions you can account for some of these people."

Connexions' strategy is to promote its brand so that by 2006 it will be widely recognised by 13 to 19-year-olds.

By the same year, all 47 Connexions partnerships, and the work of the personal advisers who work directly with teenagers, will have been inspected by the Office for Standards in Education.

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