Young people doomed to live at `status zero'

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The Independent Online
More than 100,000 young people have become "status zero" and unless urgent action is taken more will follow them down the same route, a Catholic charity warned yesterday.

Entering the moral debate, the Depaul Trust called on society and the Government to help the numbers of young people who are becoming marginalised from society and face the future with no hope.

Status zero is a term used by sociologists to describe the increasing numbers of young people who have effectively ceased to be part of mainstream society.

The Depaul Trust said that an Identikit picture of a "Status Zero" person is someone living with one or neither parent, or in the care system.

He or she [although it is mainly young men] had a poor record at school with a history of truancy and would have left school at 16, drifting in and out of government training schemes. He spends the majority of his time with people of the same age, involved in crime and drug-taking, with no means of independent financial support, living in an inner-city area - probably a large council estate. He may well live at home but is on the brink of being kicked out as he will bring no wages and no benefits. His family can no longer afford him and the state offers him nothing. He will probably be homeless soon.

The Depaul Trust, which provides emergency nightshelters for 16- to 25- year-olds, commissioned this research after seeing 5,000 young people in its shelters since 1989.

For 16- to 25-year-old "status zeros" employment prospects have dramatically diminished, said the charity. Under 25s account for more than one in four of all those unemployed. On training schemes the drop-out rate is as high as 44 per cent and nearly half-a-million under 25s earn pounds 2.50 or less per hour.

Massive increases in rents and the lack of benefit entitlement make it impossible for many young people to find a home of their own. Ethnic minorities are particularly likely to end up living in run-down housing in the inner-cities.

The charity also warns that trends point towards younger people abusing drugs and alcohol and there is a strong link between substance misuse and crime. The mental health of young people is also particularly worrying with the suicide rate amongst young men increasing by 75 per cent since 1979.

"We should have high aspirations for young people, we should not just be offering them a safety net," said Jackie Hall, the author of the report.

The charity called on the Government and voluntary organisations to invest in the infrastructure of communities - for example schools, youth clubs, lodging and family reconciliation schemes and education and training opportunities.

Trevor MacDonald, newsreader for ITN, and the charity's president, said: "I don't think we can call ourselves a modern up-to-date civilised society until we pay some attention to people who are coming up. We need to enable young people to develop and flourish and stand on their own."