Record numbers of young people are out of school, work and training, official figures showed today.
More than a million 16 to 24-year-olds - almost one in five - are considered "NEET" (not in education, employment or training), according to statistics published by the Department for Education (DfE).
The figures show that in the third quarter of 2011, 1,163,000 young people in this age group were NEET, an extra 137,000 compared with the same point last year.
Today's figures show that more than one in five (21.1%) 18-24-year-olds, 1,013,000 in total, are NEET.
This is up 129,000 from 884,000 youngsters in the third quarter of last year.
And around one in seven 16-18-year-olds, 267,000 in total, are NEET, compared to 265,000 at the same point last year.
The figures come just weeks after Government figures revealed that the number of 16 to 24-year-olds looking for work increased by 67,000 in the quarter to September to 1.02 million, the worst total since comparable records began in 1992, giving a jobless rate of 21.9%, also a record.
Helen Donohoe, director of public policy at Action for Children, said: "These statistics are deeply concerning, but sadly, the number of young people who don't have jobs, or who aren't able to access education, is a reality we see every day.
"Many of these young people are vulnerable and are facing obstacles that most adults would find too much to bear. They may be living in poverty or experiencing neglect on a daily basis, putting employment and education opportunities far out of reach.
"We need to give these young people a fighting chance and we know that we can do that with the right kind of support. Timely support that addresses need and offers stability and consistency can open up opportunities to the right education, training programmes, and jobs.
"We know these programmes work to transform lives for the better, and can save society huge amounts of money in the long term.
"Unless we act now, we risk losing an entire generation of young people to a future without hope. This isn't a price any of us can afford."
Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC) said: "These figures add weight to the results of our October survey of colleges and a new set of interim enrolment figures collected from colleges - both of which suggest that there has been a fall in the number of students leaving school with low levels of qualifications starting at college this year.
"The new enrolment figures show a 14% drop in Level One (basic skills and pre-GCSE course) students among member colleges.
"Sadly, if these young people are not studying at college, they are likely to become NEETs. Most schools do not provide the types of courses they need, and work-based learning routes are also likely to be closed to them.
"It is not clear yet exactly what forces are driving the rise in NEETs for some age groups and the corresponding fall in enrolments.
"Local authority transport cuts, the loss of the Connexions service and the Education Maintenance Allowance, together with worries about higher education costs and the general economic situation, may play a part in young people's decisions but there does need to be more research on causes and effects.
"In the meantime, we would want to continue our dialogue with Government about how to mitigate the impact of any unintended consequences of policy and funding changes on students and their families."
A Department for Education (DfE) spokesman said: "The number of young people not in education, employment or training has been too high for too long - we are determined to bring the numbers down.
"We know that many young people move between school, college, university and work during the summer, which explains why NEET figures are higher during this quarter. But we will not be complacent and are taking action now to address this issue.
"We know that attainment at age 16 is the most important factor in later participation and our ambitious school reforms will help to prepare young people for success.
"Disadvantaged young people are more likely to become NEET and our Pupil Premium will help raise the outcomes of this group by targeting funding where it is most needed."
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