Umur* had just been put on remand when referred to the Youth Contract in the West Midlands, where Prospects is the prime contractor. With his adviser’s support he is now in training, which will hopefully be the start to a better life.
The Youth Contract focuses on 16 and 17-year-olds Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) and at highest risk of long-term disengagement, including those with no qualifications or only one GCSE.
In the West Midlands 4,703 eligible young people have enrolled, of whom 2,817 (60%) have re-engaged in learning; 1,494 (53%) have sustained learning for six months and 1,318 continue to receive mentoring support. Prospects is also the prime contractor in London and Yorkshire and the Humber, delivering the programme in partnership with local authorities, training providers and voluntary sector organisations.
Umur dropped out of school when he was 12. At 16 he was NEET and his child benefit and family tax credits were withdrawn. Umur decided to take things into his own hands, holding up a petrol station at gunpoint. He is now on remand, tagged and living in secure accommodation.
Umur was referred to the Youth Contract immediately after being put on remand, and had major barriers to entering education, employment or training. His bail conditions stipulated a strict curfew; he was not allowed to be out of sight of staff where he resides nor allowed to enter the area of the city where the petrol station is, which unfortunately is where his family lives. He had no qualifications or aspirations.
Heena, his mentor, helped Umur to think seriously about his future. Umur did not want to pursue an academic course, believing he was incapable, but was willing to consider taking courses that would give him practical and functional skills. Heena approached an independent school, which offers an alternative curriculum and specialises in providing help for learners who have learning difficulties or, like Umur, behavioural issues. With Heena’s support Umur applied to study a Level 1 Construction Skills course.
Umur is doing well on the course and is now completing his Level 1 in Painting and Decorating. The school is pleased with his progress and suggests Umur could complete the whole course in four months. Umur’s trial is in August, and he is aware that his progress with Heena and at school will be reported to the court.
*Not his real name.