Young people are the leaders of tomorrow’s communities.  In recent years there has been a concerted effort among a broad partnership to increase the percentage of young people who progress from school to a positive learning, training or work destination.

Despite this coordinated effort a small minority of young people still slip through the net and fail to enter a positive destination or fall out of their training or college course due to having unmet additional support needs. Some of these additional support needs are:

  • They have been looked after or in care and are finding the transition to independence difficult
  • They have been involved in the Criminal Justice System and may be involved in gang activity
  • They have physical or sensory impairments
  • They have mental health issues and low self esteem
  • They have already developed substance misuse issues
  • They live in a deprived neighbourhood

These young people fall out of contact with statutory services and are not normally contacted again until they become eligible for adult employment programmes at almost nineteen years old, by which time they may have been unemployed and disengaged for up to three years.

In April 2011 Community Renewal was given a grant from the City of Edinburgh Challenge Fund to develop and pilot an area-based approach to engaging young people from the categories listed above.  We chose to pilot the new project, the Employment Safety Net (ESN) in Pilton.

“Our overall aim was to Hoover up  every young person in that neighbourhood who was disengaged from any support service. “

In the initial pilot in Pilton there was data on just 6 young people who were disengaged from support but using our street work engagement method we quickly found 32 young people aged 17-19 who were not engaged with any support service.  Of this group 28 engaged in long term support from Community Renewal.

With the focus on supporting them into employment, we developed a service that assisted with barrier removal, mental health issues, substance misuse, offending behaviours, housing and accommodation issues and social isolation.

Our experienced team worked on a one-to-one basis using Community Renewal’s holistic assessment tool which identifies areas of the young person’s life that they are struggling with.  We helped them prioritise the issues they wanted to work on and used this assessment as the basis for goal setting and action planning.

The Employment Safety Net is unique in that it provides a case manager for each young person for up to 3 years. Case managers act as a continuous point of support and a core relationship, engaging with young people through street work, home-based appointments and outreach.

Now in its fourth year, the success of the Employment Safety Net has shown that with a high intensity, targeted approach the most vulnerable young people can be re-engaged and supported to have a sustained engagement with support services and eventually move into sustained jobs.

By preventing this group of young people becoming long-term unemployed there will be future cost savings to health and community services, as they will be less likely to require support and treatment for substance abuse and mental health support, and less likely to have suicidal ideation.