UCU said research carried out by ComRes this summer showed that young people not ‘earning or learning’ needed access to decently-rewarded secure jobs and an expansion of educational opportunities.

The research showed that, while NEETs are a highly diverse group with different needs, the overwhelming majority (88%) want to work or study and over two-thirds (71%) believe they would contribute a lot to society if they got the right support.

Worryingly though, a third of NEETs feared they would never get a job. When asked what they considered to be the main barriers stopping them finding work or study almost half (47%) said their lack of experience held them back, a quarter (25%) said they lacked confidence, and more than one in four (28%) cited a lack of suitable well-paid jobs.

When asked about benefits, one in five (20%) said they thought a guarantee of not losing their benefits would help them find work or get back in to education.

‘David Cameron said he would nag and push his children to help them on their way. But would he, or any of us, push our kids towards dead-end jobs or irrelevant training?’
Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary

When asked what would help them find work or training opportunities, almost half (46%) said they needed help to boost their confidence and over a third (36%) wanted a motivational boost. One in three (29%) said they wanted decent advice about applying for jobs and a quarter (23%) cited clear information about opportunities as a real step forward.

UCU said the Tory plans risked scapegoating young people as lazy or feckless. The union added that if the Prime Minister was serious about tackling the huge numbers of young people not earning or learning he should study the barriers so many of them face.

The survey also revealed the substantial human and social cost of sustained unemployment with more than a third (36%) believing they would never get a job. A third (33%) reported having suffered depression, while 37% said they rarely left the house and two-fifths (40%) said they did not feel they were part of society.