Two English academics say both the state and businesses need to do more to find work for care leavers in Londonderry as too many are ending up on dole queues long-term and this can cost the public £1m over the course of just one individual’s lifetime.
Robin Simmons, Professor of Education at the University of Huddersfield and his colleague Dr Ron Thompson, were commissioned by the Leverhulme and Joseph Rowntree trusts to investigate the possibilities for creating job opportunities for care leavers not in employment, education or training (NEET).
Professor Simmons said: “There are approximately 600 care leavers who are NEET each year.
“This is a relatively manageable number, compared to England in particular, where numbers are much higher and more geographically dispersed.
“For Northern Ireland, we calculated that you had to ring fence approximately one per cent of entry level jobs to provide 100 per cent opportunities for new care leavers.
“You could apply the same principles elsewhere, but the case in Northern Ireland is particularly strong because it is so tangible – the numbers are smaller and more manageable.”
The report will be published early this year.
Professor Simmons said: “NEET care leavers are a highly-disadvantaged group of people that deserve additional assistance” – but there is also a strong financial case. Long-term unemployment – which is often the experience of care leavers – can cost the public purse more than £1 million over the course of an individual’s ‘working’ life.
“So we have made a business case both for state and employers to provide employment for care leavers. Over the long term, it would be more economical,” said Professor Simmons.
He added that an extra factor was that NEET young people tend to be alienated from democratic processes. They are more likely to participate in these when they join the labour market.