Introducing Social Interface
16th May 2011
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We are a group of experienced business people, based in Oxfordshire, who have developed the following proposal to help vulnerable young people in the county to get jobs in our community.

On average in the United Kingdom 6.1% of [16-18] year olds have become disaffected with the education system and are unemployed.  The Government acronym is NEET – not in education, employment or training.  In Oxfordshire this status affects 633 young people at any time, of these 48% will continue as long term unemployed.  Among these there is a high risk of offending.  The Restorative Justice System, pioneered in Oxfordshire and [four] other counties, has helped enormously with getting young people back into school or training, but it has proven more difficult to get NEET people into work.

For a young person who will not attend training or school, finding a job is crucial.  However, they often feel that the situation is hopeless before they start.   Getting them motivated is an uphill battle, even though they can see that getting into employment is their best way forward.   They believe that they are not going to be considered for a job because of their lack of qualifications so there is no point in trying.  People aged between 16 and 18 are not eligible for income support.  Clearly, it would be better for all concerned if they were able to get some employment experience.  

Conversely, there are companies that find it difficult to attract young people to do the more basic jobs: people with qualifications want work starting above the basic level, and with prospects for advancement. 

We are proposing that a central register should be created with companies interested in corporate social responsibility, which have a requirement for unskilled staff and could offer work on a short term placement basis.  This would be similar to the summer internships which give undergraduates a chance to experience work in various fields, as a means for them to find out whether they are suited to the work in question, and as an introduction which can lead to permanent employment.

These internships could be for any time period but we suggest a month or two, maximum, to prevent exploitation of low cost workers.  Under the proposed scheme the intern would be paid for out of pocket expenses, plus a gratuity.  At the end of the period, the trainee should be given a written reference, and the participating companies should be prepared to act as a referee for any job applications that these interns may make.  They may also want to consider hiring the young person as an employee.

It is our proposal to establish this scheme as a pilot scheme in West Oxfordshire with the intention of taking it nationwide in the longer term.  A broad range of companies will be consulted to assess the availability of these placement positions.  A register will be maintained centrally, independently of the Young Offenders Service but in conjunction with it.  In the case of placements for young offenders, the young person concerned will be assessed by their Youth Offender Worker to minimise any risk of them offending whilst on placement.

The assessment of NEETs who have not offended will be carried out by Social Interface staff.  There will be a fee payable by the participating companies to cover the central overheads.  It is expected that there will be support from the council and that there will be office space in Oxford (or Banbury?) made available by the council.  We will also look for corporate sponsors.   We will be seeking a ‘figurehead’ to help launch the scheme and to give it momentum.  The costs will be kept to a minimum.  It is anticipated that all that will be required will be expenses of one employee and general office overheads during the start up phase.  The scheme could be set up as a not- for- profit scheme, if there is Government funding.  Otherwise it could be run as a Social Enterprise scheme, which would charge higher fees in order to be sufficiently profitable to cover the cost of funding.

for further information, contact Penny Reeves

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