Skills minister Matthew Hancock has voiced concerns over hundreds of forgotten teenagers in Tower Hamlets.
Following new figures released on October 10, 2013, Hancock has sent letters to 12 local authorities warning that 16 and 17 year olds that are not in education, training or employment – known as NEETs – are slipping through the cracks.
Hancock said: “These new figures show a worrying variation in how well councils track participation in education and training among 16 and 17 year olds.
“We are determined to do all we can to tackle the problem of youth unemployment and this starts by identifying our young people who are NEET.
“You can’t manage what you don’t measure, so I have written to authorities we have particular concerns about to remind them of their duty to collect this crucial information.”
The new statistics show that Tower Hamlets council do not know the activity of 8.3% of its 16 and 17 year olds. At around double the national average, that works out as just over 400 teenagers that are not being tracked and potentially missing out on opportunities to help them into work.
Tower Hamlets was one of only two boroughs in London to receive a letter, as well as Waltham Forest.
If the data included 18 year olds, it is expected these figures would be much higher.
But a Tower Hamlets council spokesperson said the minister’s measures neglect the “unique challenges faced by inner city boroughs” when comparing local authorities, such as “high levels of rented accommodation” and “resident churn”.
The spokesperson noted that the overall number of young people in Tower Hamlets (as opposed to only 16-17 year olds) whose activity is “unknown” to the council has fallen by 2 per cent since 2005.
Lola Ahonkai, the job ready manager at Futureversity, a Tower Hamlets charity that works to engage and inspire young people across the borough and beyond, said: “Council budget cuts have resulted in reductions to frontline staff and services; I believe the council needs more investment to track young people effectively.
“It would be easy to damn the council, but the truth is they are doing the best they can with the available resources.
“It’s a huge, constant job to track young people, especially those that feel excluded from their local community and society at large.
“Councils need help from families, local youth providers and third sector organisations and we need people out in the community engaging with young people, talking to them, offering real advice and solutions – this cannot be done from behind a computer screen in Mulberry Place.”
The spokesperson for the council said: “Tower Hamlets council works proactively with its partners to track and engage as many young people as possible through regular activities such as door-to-door knocking, community events and outreach.
“Young people are a top priority in Tower Hamlets and the reality is we have seen excellent achievements in education, employment and training in our borough.”