Young people today are having a tough time of it. The phrase ‘lost generation’—first used in the 1980s and then again in the early 1990s—has hit the headlines once more, as youth unemployment screeches upwards. The unemployment rate for 16–24 year olds in the UK is currently 17.5%, almost 5 percentage points higher than the same quarter in 2008.

The transition from education to the workplace is arguably tougher than it’s ever been. Young people fresh out of education are struggling to find jobs. Even those clutching degrees from good universities are joining the dole queue. But as the economy recovers, these young people should be able to take advantage of new job opportunities. But what about those young people who have the most serious obstacles to employment? Those who are battling drug abuse, those who are caring for a terminally ill parent, those who are struggling with extremely low self-esteem—in short, those with experiences that we wouldn’t wish on anyone.

The charity Fairbridge works with young people in this group. Those like Emma, age 22 and unemployed since leaving school age 16. She came to Fairbridge a year ago, suffering from depression and unsure of where she would be living one month to the next. Through the charity, she has received one-to-one personal support and done all sorts of different courses. She is now planning on going to college next year.

Next week NPC will publish its report Getting back on track, which looks at what the charitable sector is doing to tackle the problem of young people not in education or work. It highlights charities such as Fairbridge, which are helping individuals such as Emma. We find that charities are well-placed to help those whom others struggle to reach. Resources permitting, charities will prevent these young people from becoming ‘lost’.

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