Just in case you haven’t noticed, plenty of The Reader staff ran the 5K in Liverpool the weekend before last, raising money to support our work reading with looked after children. We were recently given compelling evidence by Young Person’s Project Worker, Anna Fleming, of how this work helps young people in care massively. Of course, this is not the only example of such work and knowing what the money raised was going towards was a great motivation for the unfit members of the team whilst training and on race day itself. (Not naming any names, not out of politeness, but it would be quicker to name the people in shape).
A July 2010 report from The University of York named ‘Estimating the life-time cost of NEET: 16-18 year olds not in Education, Employment or Training’ indicated that fairly modest investment in ‘youth support projects’ can save massive amounts of public money in the long run.
As the title suggests, the report focuses on 16-18 year olds, but includes an alarming statistic with regards to children in care:
In 2008 only 14 per cent of looked after children obtained 5 A*-C grades at GCSE compared to 65 per cent of all children.
Roughly speaking that’s just under a fifth of looked after children doing as well as the national average in their examinations, a series of results that have a massive impact on an individual’s future. Hopefully since 2008 this gap in the figures has narrowed somewhat, but it is discomforting if not surprising, that so many people should be held back by a factor as arbitrary as their domestic/familial situation in the 21st century. The Reader Organisation’s one-to-one work with looked after children aims to remove these obstacles, giving children the chance to read exciting and enjoyable material in a relaxed environment outside of school.
One of the nation’s biggest problems at the moment is unemployment, especially for young people. Those leaving care and/or and school without the best grades or a college/university place are likely to struggle. The University of York looked at how much NEETs were likely to cost the taxpayer over their lifetimes. The least conservative estimates arrived at a public finance cost of £32 billion and resource costs of £76 billion – similar to the budget of a small/medium government department at the time.
In the Executive Summary of the report, the research team said that cuts in youth support projects could have damaging effects financially and for society as a whole as costs covering unemployment and criminal justice would increase massively. One case study showed that failure to prevent a young offender drifting into repeat offending can cost £2 million, whilst a modest investment of £7,000 can prevent this.
The research findings above are yet another reason to thank all of those who sponsored our 5k run. Not only are you helping to provide positive experiences for young people, but you are helping to protect them from falling into the 86% and establishing something closer to the equal footing in life these people deserve.