There are still more than a million young people not in education, employment or training (Neet) in England, despite a dip in the numbers.

Some 17% of 16 to 24-year-olds were without jobs or college places in the three months to September 2012, according to official data.

This is down 136,000 or two percentage points on last year.

The government welcomed the fall but said the numbers remained too high.

The figures, from the Department for Education (DfE), for those over school age (19- to 24-year olds) are down on 2011 but higher than they were two years ago.
‘Still too high’

They show that over-18s are worst affected – with almost a fifth of 19-24-year-olds (19.6%) classified as Neet this summer.

This figure is down from 21.5% last year but up from 18.6% in summer 2010.

A DfE spokesman welcomed the fall in numbers compared with the same time last year but added: “There is no room for complacency as the number of young people who are Neet is still too high. We will continue to tackle this.

“We are spending a record £7.5bn on education and training for 16- to 19-year-olds. We are also spending over £3.8bn on adult further education, with an increased focus on young people and the unemployed.

“Our Youth Contract is also providing a range of extra targeted support for 16- and 24-year-olds who are Neet to help get them back on track.

“Our reforms will create a world-class education system that will equip young people properly for both higher education and skilled, sustainable employment.”

The charity Barnardo’s welcomed the figures but called on the government to widen the scope of Youth Contract training to a broader group of young people. At the moment it is limited to those without any GCSEs above a D grade.

Both employers, unions and politicians agreed more needed to be done to support young people.

Labour’s shadow minister for young people Karen Buck said: “The number of young people who are not in education, employment or training is higher than it was in 2010 when this government came to office.”

She added: “Under David Cameron’s watch, we have seen face to face careers advice for young people and the EMA axed while he prioritises a tax cut for millionaires.”

The DfE spokesman said the numbers of Neets had dropped despite the cutting in 2011 of Education Maintenance Allowance payments to 16- to 19-year old students from low-income households in England. It is still paid in the rest of the UK.

Jon Richards of public service union, Unison, said: “This small reduction will be no comfort for the 17% of 16-24 year olds who are still out of work, education or training”.

“Young people need options, but more than that they need hope. The government needs to have a hard look at its policies, and undo the damage they’ve done before we lose a generation for good.”

Ronan Dunne, chief executive O2, said both big and small businesses had a role to play and tackling the issue.

He said: “They [young people] are the future fuel of our economy but many businesses are failing to capitalise on their skills which will help drive our future growth.”

The number of young people not in education, employment of training (Neet) fluctuate with the seasons and peaks over the summer months.