Drugs and crime lure the young underclass

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The Independent Online

Labour Editor

An underclass of up to 200,000 unemployed young people aged between 18 and 20 has fallen through the safety net of educational and training opportunities and has little or no hope of obtaining work.

The findings of a study funded by the Department for Education and Employment reveal a growing army of youngsters - nearly one in eight of their age group - who have left school without qualifications and who lack even the most basic skills to force their way into the labour market.

"With low self-worth, little pride in their community, no hope for the future and feelings of rejection, some young people feel they have no option but to turn to violence, drugs, crime and rioting," says the report.

The youngsters are "unable or unwilling" to take their places in society at a critical stage in their transition into the adult workforce, says the report commissioned by the Training and Enterprise Councils.

The study says: "We believe that disaffection amongst young people serves to delay their transition to adulthood. It keeps them dependent either on the state, family or social organisations. For some, disaffection is due to an absence of a positive work ethic."

While a disclaimer is attached to the report, stating that the findings do not necessarily represent the view of the department, the conclusions will be given added weight by the fact that the Government funded it on behalf of the TECs.

Typically the young people have low personal esteem, they are at high risk of homelessness, drug abuse and are prone to commit offences. "Young people feel that adults do not listen to them. They feel ignored and isolated," the report says.

The report, Disaffection and Non-Participation in Education, Training and Employment by individuals aged 18-20, warned that a "growing social cost" would have to be paid unless the problem was addressed.

A "high degree of scepticism" was found among young people and their support organisations about the purpose of government education and training programmes. Most said the programmes lacked long-term opportunities, paid low rewards and provided poor quality.

Out of a population of 1.7 million young people aged 18 to 20, between 100,000 and 200,000 are failing to take advantage of opportunities in education, training and employment.