Sarah Golden, Lisa O'Donnell, Thomas Spielhofer, David Sims, Sarah Aiston
01 July 2002
The Neighbourhood Support Fund (NSF), which was launched in September 1999, aims to re-engage disaffected and disengaged young people aged 13 to 19 into education, training or employment. The DfES is providing £60 million over three years to fund over 660 NSF projects in 40 disadvantaged areas in England, with the aim that at least 15,000 young people will participate annually in the NSF. Three Managing Agents deliver NSF through local voluntary and community-based organisations which offer a range of activities and support for young people. The DfES commissioned NFER to undertake research to establish the extent to which the NSF is supporting the re-engagement of young people in education, training, employment or other structured activities. The results reported here are the key findings from the research which was carried out between July 2001 and March 2002. This included an analysis of NSF project management information and case-study visits to 20 projects.
- The research found that there was a clear and continuing demand for the services provided by NSF projects from young people whose needs were not being fully met by mainstream education provision.
- A total of 22,350 young people joined NSF projects since recruitment started in February 2000. Between January and December 2001, the figure of young people registered as having joined was 13,538. This figure indicates a growing momentum of young people participating in the NSF, approaching the annual target figure of 15,000.
- Around half (51 per cent) of young people who had left NSF projects had moved on to positive outcomes, including education, training, employment, the Learning Gateway, New Deal, and voluntary work.
- Project staff valued the provision and local targeting of resources and appreciated the way that NSF enabled them to work flexibly within its overall aims to meet the needs of the young people in their communities.
- The critical factors which contributed to engaging young people in NSF projects included building relationships, gaining their trust, and giving clients a sense of ownership and choice. Projects combined structure with flexibility to meet individual need, provided clients with targets to aim for, and offered practical activities with minimal written work.
- NSF projects were successfully recruiting young people from the target group of hard-to-reach young people through publicity, outreach and links with other organisations. The majority of clients had some form of educational disadvantage.
- NSF projects were valued by the young people interviewed.
- Young people and project staff indicated that the gains made by clients from their NSF experiences included improved communication and ICT skills, increased self-confidence, enhanced literacy, improved behaviour, and increased aspirations in relation to education and future career choices.