Social Justice

Children on free schools meals twice as likely to be unemployed later in life

Disadvantaged young people in the north of England are more often out of employment, education or training (NEET)

Children from poorer families face a significant employment gap between themselves and their better off peers after they leave school – and getting good exam results does little to change it.

A youth jobs gap between rich and poor has been identified by charity Impetus in a report examining the effect inequality has on children’s outcomes.

Analysts found that one in four young people in England who were eligible for free school meals were not in education, employment or training (NEETs) after leaving school. This is 26 per cent of those on free school meals.

Impetus CEO Andy Ratcliffe said youth employment has “disappeared from the front pages and politicians’ list of priorities”.

He also hit out at the idea that “youth unemployment is yesterday’s problem” – “it isn’t”.

Ratcliffe added: “The optimistic surface covers worrying depths.

“Those young people who are what we call doubly disadvantaged – from disadvantaged backgrounds and with low qualifications – are being left behind. And, even where young people from disadvantaged backgrounds get good qualifications, they are still much more likely to be out of education and employment in their early adulthood than someone with the same exam results but from a wealthier family.”

The report showed marked regional differences – with a young person in the North East is 50 per cent more likely to be a NEET than someone who lives in London.

And crucially, the charity emphasised that high exam results could not be used to explain this away as young people from poorer backgrounds still achieve less even with good qualifications.

Stefan Speckesser, associate research director at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, said: “Youth unemployment is not only a bad thing for young people, it is also associated with ‘scarring’ effects, resulting in reduced employment in adult lives, and related negative effects on families and communities.

“Family disadvantage and where people live also have immense influence, irrespective of qualifications. With this and future work, we hope that – by carefully analysing more granular ‘big data’– we can learn more about the complex interplay of locality, family disadvantage and education to help improve policy and programmes for young people.”

Data analysed in the report showed that 13 per cent of young people not registered for free school meals ended up out of work or education – half of those from disadvantaged backgrounds who become NEETs.

A government spokesman said: “Young people are participating in education and training at their highest rate since consistent records began and the latest figures show that the overall proportion of 16 to 18-year-olds not in education, employment or training was at 6.3%, the lowest rate on record.

“We are working closely with schools to assist 12 to 16-year-olds who have been identified as most likely to be at risk of becoming NEET.

“Job centres also help school pupils with career planning and link them up with local businesses for work experience placements.

“We also provide support for young people after they leave school to equip them with the skills and experience they need to progress.”

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Almost no recorded cases of disability benefit fraud despite DWP crackdown: 'PIP fraud is a non-issue'
dwp pip/ disabled person
Disability benefits

Almost no recorded cases of disability benefit fraud despite DWP crackdown: 'PIP fraud is a non-issue'

Deaf man awarded £50,000 after 'oppressive' and 'discriminatory' treatment by DWP
dwp jobcentre
Department for Work and Pensions

Deaf man awarded £50,000 after 'oppressive' and 'discriminatory' treatment by DWP

The UK used to be the most LGBTQ-friendly place in Europe. Now, it's not even close
LGBTQ+ rights

The UK used to be the most LGBTQ-friendly place in Europe. Now, it's not even close

Benefits system is 'utterly failing' as food bank demand reaches record high: 'It's heartbreaking'
donate to a food bank
Food banks

Benefits system is 'utterly failing' as food bank demand reaches record high: 'It's heartbreaking'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know