Minister for Neets? That's barmy, says expert
A leading expert on youth policy has accused Welsh politicians of "living in cloud cuckoo land" for suggesting that a dedicated minister can tackle the problem of Neets (young people not in employment, education or training).
Professor Howard Williamson of Glamorgan University said the plight of Neets was only going to worsen as a result of economic cutbacks, and only job creation could have an effect on figures.
Last week, the Assembly's enterprise and learning committee said that a lack of direction was resulting in unco-ordinated services for the 68,000 Welsh 16 to 24-year-old Neets.
The cross-party group of AMs said the Assembly government must demonstrate clearer leadership in tackling the growing numbers of Neets and recommended appointing a dedicated minister and a lead agency to oversee and co-ordinate the agenda.
It said delivery of the government's 2009 Neet strategy had been "patchy" and there was still "no clear path" being paved for the agenda.
Committee chairman Gareth Jones said: "There is no shortage of aspiration or strategies. However, more effective action on the ground and better collaboration between different agencies is vital to ensure a continuum of support for these young people."
However, Professor Williamson said: "They are living in cloud cuckoo land. With the economic cuts, a big proportion of those who are classed as Neet are going to be left on the margins.
"I'm sceptical about whether any strategy is likely to make a difference to the prospects of those who are Neet when public sector interventions are likely to be cut back."
Professor Williamson said a lead minister should be identified, but other ministers should also take responsibility for tackling the problem.
But, he said: "The bottom line is none of this is producing employment or jobs. You can upskill young people and keep them in education, but ultimately if you are not creating more jobs you just get qualification inflation.
"We have got to think much more creatively about how we engage with those kids in ways that help them retain belief and hope and build capacity and skills that may help them find their way back in due course."
During its inquiry the committee also heard evidence that young people's experiences should be looked at from a much younger age to identify those at risk of becoming Neets.
It was also concerned at the lack of a specific strategy for 16 to 25- year-olds and the need to link up Neet services to avoid the "revolving door" whereby young people are moved between providers without progressing.
An Assembly government spokesman said: "Addressing the issue of young people not in education, employment or training is a long-term issue.
"The youth engagement and employment action plan addresses some of the findings included in the committee's report and the education minister will make a further statement in the coming months.
"A lot of work is already taking place to support young people who are Neet in Wales and we have also invested an additional pound;49 million to fund more training and education places."