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Strengthening the Youth Engagement and Progression Framework ('the Framework’) is a Programme for Government commitment and a cross-government priority. By using this Framework to intervene early we can provide support to young people who are at risk of living in poverty throughout their life. The Framework provides a blueprint for working together to co-ordinate resources and make a real difference to young people’s lives.
We believe in Wales being a second chance nation, and in collaborative action to prevent homelessness and poverty. This Framework will help make this a reality. In Wales we want our children to have the support they need to thrive and achieve their potential.
This Framework contributes towards our goal of tackling the impact of poverty on educational attainment, by helping us re-engage young people and raise their aspirations, to ensure no one is left behind. It is built around the early identification of young people aged 11 to 18 who are at risk of becoming not in education, employment or training (NEET) or homeless, understanding their needs, putting appropriate support and/or provision in place and monitoring their progression.
This Framework operates alongside our Young Person’s Guarantee (YPG). The YPG for young people aged 16 to 24 aims to give young people who are NEET other opportunities to move into education, employment or training (EET). Together, the Framework and YPG can help to protect a generation from the impacts of lost learning and delayed labour market entry arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
For young people aged 16 to 18 the Framework and the YPG overlap. This provides a safety net for young people at a key transition point in their lives. One of the key messages from the consultation with young people was the need for more support to negotiate key transition points. The Framework and 'Young Person’s Guarantee' (YPG) (external link) will jointly contribute towards our national milestones, specifically the milestone of at least 90% of 16 to 24 year olds being in education, employment, or training by 2050.
This Framework also aligns with our commitment to prevent youth homelessness. This will ensure the prevention of homelessness can happen much earlier and that young people are identified and supported before they reach a crisis point.
The Framework, first introduced in 2013, has led to real, positive changes in the lives of young people at risk of being NEET. Overall, since we introduced the Framework, NEET figures have remained broadly stable, despite the impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health.
Underpinning the delivery of the Framework is the recognition of the link between NEET rates, homelessness and poor mental health. The Framework enables partners to support our young people’s mental health, by harnessing emotional and mental well-being services and resources to make a real difference in the lives of young people.
We recognise that we are publishing the ‘Youth Engagement and Progression Framework: Overview’ (‘the Overview) and Handbook (‘the Handbook') in particularly difficult times. The pandemic, the cost of living crisis and leaving the European Union (EU) have created incredible challenges. The loss of funding from the European Social Fund (ESF), and introduction of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UK SPF), means that there is less money and more complexity for the support young people need to progress into further education, training or employment. The funding available via the UK SPF represents an effective cut to the overall Welsh budget of over £1.1 billion over 3 years.
It is against this very challenging backdrop that we are seeking to strengthen the Framework to ensure:
- more young people move on to a destination that is right for them when they leave school, whether that is EET
- young people are prevented from becoming homeless
- young people experience positive emotional mental health and well-being, as a result of them being engaged in activity that is meaningful to them, and where they feel they are on the right path
By publishing the Overview and Handbook, we set out the direction of improvement which is required if we are to deliver these outcomes.
As we take forward the actions outlined in the Overview and Handbook we will continue to rely on our stakeholders’ experience and expertise to keep us informed of issues and to work with us to find a solution. Now, more than ever, it is critical we work together across government and across organisations to support young people to change their lives for the better.
Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles MS
Minister for Economy, Vaughan Gething MS
Minister for Climate Change, Julie James MS
Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Lynne Neagle MS
The Youth Engagement and Progression Framework (‘the Framework’) is a systematic mechanism to identify and respond to young people at risk of becoming NEET, who are NEET and/or who are at risk of being homeless. Under the Framework there are processes in place to identify young people who require tailored support that meets their needs and to monitor their progression, this is led by local authorities, working with their delivery partners. The Framework helps young people to fulfil their potential and prevents poverty and homelessness.
The original Framework was developed with the aim of reducing NEET rates. In this updated version, there remains a strong focus on preventing young people becoming NEET and supporting young people who are NEET into a positive destination, improving their life chances. The updated Framework has also been expanded to include the prevention of youth homelessness. This is in recognition of the fact that the ‘warning signs’ of a young person potentially becoming NEET can overlap with indicators that a young person may be at risk of family breakdown and youth homelessness.
This Framework and the YPG jointly provide a line of sight to support young people throughout their education journey and beyond until they move into employment or self-employment. This updated version of the Framework is focused on young people aged 11 to 18. The Framework is therefore linked to the 'Young Person’s Guarantee' (YPG) which offers enhanced opportunities for young people aged 16 to 24 who are NEET to move into EET, via Working Wales.
The Framework is built of 6 core components:
- Early identification
- Identify at an early stage young people aged 11 to 18 who are:
- at risk of becoming NEET
- at risk of becoming homeless
- Broker appropriate support for young people, ensuring services work together and are readily available for young people with complex and/or multiple needs.
- Provide continuity of support and contact for the most at-risk young people.
- Monitoring progression
- Monitor what support and/or provision vulnerable young people are receiving.
- Monitor and evaluate the impact of this support and/or provision on young people, so adjustments can be made, as needed.
- For young people aged 16 to 18, identify those whose destination on leaving school is unknown and then:
- establish what they are doing (EET or if they are NEET)
- ensure that any of these young people who are not progressing receive support under the Framework
- Ensure appropriate provision is available for young people, including:
- mainstream provision, for example school, education other than at school (EOTAS), further education, work-based learning
- pre-engagement programmes to ensure young people are motivated and able to engage in learning
- interventions for preventing youth homelessness
- specific support to boost a young person’s mental health, well-being and self-esteem
- a combination of different types of provision, as appropriate
- Employability and employment opportunities
- Have the right youth employability provision in place, which allows young people to move into skilled employment, with a balance of work experience, skills, and pathways to employment or self-employment.
- Set young people on a path that gives them the best possible life chances.
- Shared responsibility and accountability amongst partners for delivering the Framework. Local authorities provide the strategic and operational leadership for implementing the Framework, while local partnerships have a critical role in supporting its delivery.
- A process of review and reflection by all delivery partners to develop a deeper understanding of how well the Framework is working in their local area, and identify where improvements can be made. This means not looking at performance targets as an end in themselves, but using the data available to drive a culture of continuous improvement among all partners.
The application of each component of the Framework will vary depending on the stage and age of the individual, and the particular issues they are dealing with.
The structures that support the delivery of the Framework are already in place, and there are 3 key roles that help to underpin the delivery of the Framework:
- The Engagement and Progression Co-ordinator (EPC) continues to play a critical and strategic role in overseeing the Framework at a local authority level. Each local authority should have an effective EPC function in place with sufficient influence at a senior level, both in their local authority and the partner organisations they work with, to deliver the Framework. The EPC will continue to co-ordinate a local partnership that will assist them in considering the overall picture of provision and how they can successfully collaborate to meet the needs of young people in their area.
- The lead worker will continue to contact and support the most at-risk young people to remain in, or to enter EET. Lead workers focus on young people who need ongoing support and an offer of appropriate provision that meets their needs. Lead workers can be drawn from various services, depending on which service is most appropriate for the individual young person. As young people have felt the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in all areas of their lives, there is likely to be an increased demand for more intensive support from lead workers. To provide that support, a lead worker review will be commissioned, in order to improve capacity and capability within the system.
- The youth homelessness co-ordinator, funded in each local authority by the Welsh Government’s Youth Support Grant (YSG), will ensure young people at risk of becoming homeless are identified earlier, and that preventative action is put in place to support them. This role supports a public services approach to the prevention of youth homelessness.
The Welsh Government currently provides funding to local authorities via the YSG, which supports the delivery of the Framework. YSG funding has been confirmed between 2022 to 2023 and 2024 to 2025 and includes, per annum:
- £3.8 million for activities relating to youth work, including a minimum of £1.1 million to be spent on activities relating to the Framework
- £3.7 million for the prevention of youth homelessness, including funding for a youth homelessness co-ordinator in each local authority
- £2.5 million to support emotional mental health and well-being through youth work activities
ESF programmes have been a key source of funding for projects aimed at providing training and support for some of the most disengaged young people and preventing them from becoming NEET. In a number of local authorities, ESF-funded projects have led the way on work with young people at risk of becoming NEET. At the time of publication (September 2022), while some ESF projects are already being phased out, some will continue until the end of the EU programme cycle in 2023 but will not be renewed under the same terms due to the absence of future EU funds. Money designated to replace EU structural funds, the UK SPF, represents a loss to the overall Welsh budget of over £1.1 billion over 3 years.
What we have done since 2021
Working towards a shared vision for improving outcomes for young people under the Framework, we have:
- made a commitment in our 'Programme for Government' to strengthen the Framework
- established a Welsh Government Youth Engagement and Progression Framework Task Force, to bring together policy officials to work collectively on this cross-cutting agenda
- consulted with stakeholders and young people on the existing Framework, to identify what is working well and areas for improvement, as outlined in the ‘refresh of the Youth Engagement and Progression Framework Stakeholder and Youth Consultation report’ (2021) (‘the consultation on the Framework’)
- extended the Framework to include the prevention of youth homelessness
- recognised the overlap and interdependence of poor emotional mental health and well-being with the risk of becoming NEET or being NEET and the risk of youth homelessness
- re-focused the Framework on young people aged 11 to 18, in recognition that it has proved most effective in supporting young people in this age group
- introduced the YPG, to provide young people in Wales, who are aged 16 to 24 and NEET with support to gain a place in education or training, or get into work or self-employment
- introduced ‘well-being of future generations: national indicators and milestones for Wales 2021’, which includes the milestone that at least 90% of 16 to 24 year olds will be in education, employment, or training by 2050
- published our plan for employability and skills ‘stronger, fairer, greener Wales: a plan for employability and skills: summary’, which sets out our approach to key challenges, including promoting youth participation, progression and employment
- introduced Jobs Growth Wales Plus (JGW+) for young people aged 16 to 18, to progress them into employment or further learning and increase their confidence and motivation through a bespoke package of training and development support
- facilitated links between EPCs and the JGW+ contractors
Finally, and related to this overview, we have also published the 'Youth Engagement and Progression Framework Handbook', to provide guidance on tackling some of the practical challenges around implementing the Framework.
To further strengthen the Framework, we will:
- work with stakeholders to develop comprehensive, up-to-date guidance on early identification to allow for greater standardisation in approaches across Wales. This will include the identification of those at risk of homelessness, to ensure responses to these issues are timely, effective and coordinated
- commission a lead worker review to better understand and improve the capacity and capability within the system, and consider opportunities for sharing good practice and networking by lead workers across local authorities and organisations
- monitor NEET levels in order to determine progress against the national milestone of at least 90% of 16 to 24 year olds being in education, employment, or training by 2050, and against the Framework and YPG
- work with EPCs and Youth Homelessness Co-ordinators to feed into the annual Young Person’s ‘state of the nation’ report’ on participation in education, training and the labour market for young people in Wales to show the contribution of the Framework
- continue to engage with EPCs and Youth Homelessness Coordinators on further Welsh Government provision that is being introduced, and facilitate the building of links between EPCs and Youth Homelessness Coordinators across Wales
- continue to monitor the impact of the end of European Social Funding
- bring forward a Net Zero Skills plan in 2022
One of the key messages from the consultation on the Framework was that while there is a shared responsibility among partners for delivering the Framework, this does not necessarily translate to a sense of shared accountability. The ‘Well-being of future generations: National indicators and milestones for Wales 2021’ will help foster this sense of collective responsibility and accountability. The national milestones, introduced following the 'Shaping Wales’ Future: Using National Indicators and Milestones to measure our Nation’s progress consultation', will help us assess progress towards the 7 well-being goals set out in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 (‘the Act’).
Of particular relevance to the Framework is the following indicator and milestone value:
- Indicator No. 22: percentage of people in education, employment or training, measured for different age groups
- Milestone: at least 90% of 16 to 24 year olds will be in education, employment, or training by 2050
The Framework also contributes towards the following indicators and national milestones:
- Indicator No.8: percentage of adults with qualifications at the different levels of the National Qualifications Framework
- Milestone: 75% of working-age adults in Wales will be qualified to Level 3 or higher by 2050
- Milestone: the percentage of working-age adults with no qualifications will be 5% or lower in every local authority in Wales by 2050
- Indicator No. 21: percentage of people in employment
- Milestone: eradicate the gap between the employment rate in Wales and the UK by 2050 with a focus on fair work and raising labour market participation of under-represented groups
Alignment with other Welsh Government priorities
The Welsh Government’s overarching children and young people’s plan (‘the Plan’) outlines the 7 cross-government priorities which will help achieve our ambition to make Wales a wonderful place to grow up, live and work, now and in the future. The Plan also sets out achievements and plans to take forward these priorities, including helping young people via the Framework.
The Framework itself is linked to and built on a number of important government priorities; the section below outlines how these priorities inter-relate with one another and with the Framework.
Preventing youth homelessness
The Welsh Government’s homelessness strategy (‘the Strategy’) makes clear that homelessness cannot be prevented through housing alone and that all public services and the third sector have a role to play in working together to prevent homelessness. Where it cannot be prevented the Strategy sets out to ensure it is rare, brief and unrepeated. Partnership working therefore must be at the heart of everything we do.
Youth homelessness is more than just a housing issue, and training, awareness raising and education have a key role to play in prevention.
If we are to end youth homelessness we need to tackle its root causes, by identifying those at risk earlier and putting measures in place to reduce those risk factors. The Wales Centre for Public Policy report, 'preventing youth homelessness’ (2018), highlighted strong evidence to support school-based interventions. It suggested a collaborative approach between schools and youth services, using a tool to identify those at risk and a flexible and responsive practice framework. As many of the principles behind such a model already existed in Wales as part of the Framework, this led the Welsh Government to work on strengthening these existing tools and service models to include additional indicators in order to provide a stronger homelessness prevention focus. As the Framework’s early identification processes are ongoing, rather than an annual ‘snapshot’ of what is happening in young people’s lives, this enables services to intervene as soon as possible, before a crisis point is reached.
Since 2019 to 20 20 we have provided £3.7 million funding per annum to local authorities, through the YSG for early intervention and prevention of homelessness. This has set the foundation for the inclusion of youth homelessness within the Framework. Feedback from the consultation on the Framework endorsed this approach. The Framework is therefore to be used to identify young people who may be at risk of becoming homeless in order to proactively work with them at an earlier stage. This complements the wider actions being taken across government and partners towards our long term goal of ending homelessness in Wales as set out in the ‘Ending Homelessness in Wales: A high level action plan 2021-2026’.
Supporting emotional mental health and well-being
Mental health and well-being have a significant role to play in a young person’s ability to engage and progress in EET. Research undertaken by SKOPE and Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, ‘what accounts for changes in the chances of being NEET in the UK?’ (external link) shows the links between poor mental health and NEET rates. This was supported by feedback from stakeholders in the consultation on the Framework. A focus on mental health and well-being is needed more than ever, because of the impact of the pandemic, and the restrictions arising from it, which have taken a toll on young people’s mental health (as referenced in the Public Health Wales document ‘Children and young people’s mental well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic’ (2021)).
Supporting young people to move into EET, or preventing them from becoming homeless, can often go hand in hand with support for their emotional mental health. This might be through specific well-being focused programmes, helping young people access practical support so they can overcome barriers in their lives, or giving them learning provision that meets their needs and boosts their self-confidence. In this way, support for mental health and well-being should help underpin the delivery of the Framework.
Young Person’s Guarantee
The YPG is an ambitious Programme for Government commitment, at the core of efforts to smooth the difficult labour market transitions that our young people face. It provides an umbrella structure that sits above all education and training provision for young people aged 16 to 24, and aims to create a straightforward journey for young people regardless of their circumstances and background.
Working Wales provides young people with easy access to the YPG through the Working Wales website. As the independent careers advice and guidance service, it is ideally placed to anchor the YPG into a range of different programmes and communities across Wales. Working Wales is also managing and reporting on the YPG.
The YPG brings together the Welsh public sector, the third sector, private sector, education and training sectors, as well as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to work together to support young people across Wales, by delivering the best possible offer.
The Framework is a key part of aligning the YPG with some external programmes, including programmes funded by the ESF, local authority programmes, the Community Renewal Fund, and DWP programmes, to fully utilise stakeholder investments, avoid competition and avoid duplication of effort.
The Welsh Government has established a National YPG Stakeholder Advisory Group, which includes a representative for EPCs and for youth homelessness co-ordinators. The group will therefore coordinate and draw upon the views of EPCs and their local partners to ensure developments are delivered effectively locally. In addition, work is underway, from 2022, to hold a sustained, national conversation with young people aged 16 to 24, from across all regions and backgrounds in Wales, with particular focus on our most vulnerable groups.
The YPG is being underpinned by robust evaluation, with the voice of young people central to this activity. The Welsh Government is currently building a picture of the education and employment aspirations, support needs and barriers to success for young people across Wales via focus groups, and survey methods. This is essential to provide early intelligence on what young people want, and need, from a YPG. We are also engaging with Regional Skills Partnerships to gather intelligence on local needs and the range of support available to young people in different areas of Wales. A comprehensive evaluation framework will be developed in 2022 which will likely include process, impact and, where possible, value for money considerations of the programme.
Youth workers play a key role in identifying and supporting young people at risk of becoming NEET or homeless, frequently acting as lead workers or working closely with lead workers to support young people.
The consultation on the Framework identified that the voluntary youth work sector, together with other advice and guidance services, needed to be better embedded within the Framework. The delivery of the Framework could really benefit from the relationships that exist between the voluntary youth work sector and the communities they support, and build on the voluntary youth work sector’s understanding of the needs of those communities and of how the young people they support are affected by intersectionality.
If we develop and improve partnership working between the voluntary and local authority sectors in the delivery of youth work services and the Framework, this should strengthen the services available to all young people and meet their diverse needs more effectively.
The ‘Youth Work Strategy for Wales’, its underpinning implementation document, the ‘Interim Youth Work Board’s final report’ which presents recommendations about developing a sustainable delivery model for youth work services in Wales, as well as the Welsh Government’s response to those recommendations, set out the direction of travel for youth work in Wales. Taking forward the Board’s proposals is a Programme for Government commitment and the implementation document will be updated to reflect this work. We will take into account developments on this agenda as we continue to take action to strengthen the Framework.
Tackling the impact of poverty on educational attainment
Our national mission is to tackle the impact of poverty on attainment, helping to achieve high standards and aspirations for all. To that end, education policies should be viewed from the perspective of whether they tackle the impact of poverty on educational attainment.
An action plan is being developed to take forward a whole-system approach in progressing this policy area. The action plan emphasises the importance of raising the aspirations of children and young people through providing appropriate support for them in pre and post-16 education.
Community Focused Schools
Developing Community Focused Schools is a key aspect of the Programme for Government commitment to tackling the impact of poverty on educational attainment and ensuring high standards for all. The framework for Community Focused Schools supports the development of family engagement, wider community partnerships and greater multi-agency working. These elements support a whole-system approach by:
- maximising the positive impact that parents and carers can have on their children’s learning and development
- linking to services and groups within the community, including those in the third sector, in order to offer opportunities and respond to wider community-based needs
- supporting the development of multi-agency working to ensure that information is shared about the needs of children and young people so that appropriate support and interventions are available
The role of the Family Engagement Officer within Community Focused Schools will provide a lead point of contact for EPCs, Youth Homelessness Co-ordinators and local partnerships, helping to ensure young people have positive transitions into EET when they leave school.
Data sharing was identified as a challenge during the consultation on the Framework. The UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 came into force in 2018. (For ease of reference, this document refers to GDPR, and covers data protection legislation in general.) Resources on data protection have been made available on Hwb for schools and colleges. In Wales, data controllers in any sector can use the ‘Wales Accord on the Sharing of Personal Information’. This means that if a school or college is lawfully sharing information with participating organisations then this sharing can take place under an agreed framework, designed to help them comply with data protection law. The Welsh Government has also published a guide ‘Effective post-16 transitions and data sharing: a short guide for schools and learning providers’ (2018) which includes a summary of underpinning legislation, and a good practice checklist that schools and colleges could use to strengthen information sharing processes.
Nonetheless, the difficulties identified during the consultation on the Framework around data sharing between organisations create challenges around monitoring the progression of young people receiving support under the Framework. This was thought to be due to barriers to sharing data and also different understandings of GDPR requirements. This challenge is not unique to the Framework, for example, Estyn’s report ‘Post-16 partnerships, Shared planning and provision between schools, and between schools and colleges’ (2021) also notes anxiety about GDPR requirements. Work is taking place across a number of areas to improve data sharing:
- The Welsh Government has commissioned Cardiff University to undertake a study to explore the feasibility of linking data held by Careers Wales to other administrative datasets, for example, the Department for Work and Pensions. The findings are set out in the ‘Careers Wales Data Linking Feasibility Study’.
- The Transition Information Project, led by Colegau Cymru, supported transition for learners moving from school to further education during the COVID-19 pandemic. This work included highlighting the benefits of different approaches trialled across Wales and consideration of how information sharing between schools and colleges to support learner transition could be improved in future. The Post-16 and Transitions project, as part of the Renew and Reform programme, aims to support providers in this regard through its Learner Transitions and Pathways workstream. This aspect of the project involves working with learners and wider stakeholders, to identify and develop support measures aligned to one or more of the following:
- the acquisition of insightful information about learners’ abilities, needs and attributes
- sharing knowledge and information about learners and their needs with relevant practitioners in a secure and timely way to support learner progress
- enhanced support for learners in moving between sectors of education and training and into the workplace
The development of the Youth Engagement and Progression Framework Overview and Handbook has been informed by detailed discussions with stakeholders and young people, available data and research findings, as well as related policy developments. In preparing the Overview and the Handbook, we are aiming to meet needs that were identified during the consultation on the Framework, namely greater clarity on how the Framework fits in with and contributes towards Welsh Government priorities, and practical guidance to support the implementation of the Framework.