Youngsters hit hardest by recession

RURAL youngsters face extra barriers when trying to finding work, training and education, warns a report.

The speed at which youngsters have become unemployed or unable to find training and education is increasing faster in rural areas than in larger towns and cities, it claims.

Published by the Commission for Rural Communities, the report looks at barriers for rural young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).

While the recession means there are clear associated challenges for all young people across England, there is also a rural dimension to the issue, it says.

Young people in rural areas frequently have to travel further to work, training and education, with opportunities further limited by the high cost and low availability of transport.

There are also concerns that the additional cost of delivering employment and training services in rural areas is leading providers to focus on more highly populated parts of the country.

The report calls for the appointment of a government minister for young people, who would act as a focal point and representative for rural youth affairs across central government.

Commission chairman Stuart Burgess described the future of young people as one of the most

important issues facing England's rural areas.

"The high number of young people NEET across the country is clearly a matter of considerable concern for young people, communities and policy makers."

Dr Burgess said there needed to be a national dialogue over way rural areas were affected.

"I hope this report will act as a catalyst for addressing the range of uniquely intractable barriers that young people in rural areas face."

The report says the commission recognises that changes to government policy are, in some instances, having a positive effect on the situation.

Widening the market for the provision of public services, for example, is resulting in opportunities for providers to tailor their services to more remote parts of the country.

But the study questions the capacity of private and voluntary providers to fill the gap left by the removal or scaling back of services previously delivered by the public sector.

It voices particular concern about remote areas where it can cost more to deliver a service.

The report indicates that this can lead to considerable disparities in the level of services and support available to young people living in these areas.

In order to remain viable, for example, some rural employment and training providers are streamlining their services, and becoming less rural focused.

Currently, there is no clear, overarching responsibility across government for

securing the development and employment of young people in rural areas, the report says.

Consequently, insufficient consideration is being given to addressing the additional challenges associated with this in a co-ordinated and strategic way, it claims.


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