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Evaluation of the Government’s Strategy for Young People who neither work nor study. Interim Report (2017:15)

The Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) has been commissioned by the Swedish Government to evaluate the implementation of the measures in the Government’s Strategy for Young People who neither work nor study (NEET). The assignment includes also reporting on the impact of the measures and analysing the possible need for further efforts in the framework of youth policy. This report is an interim report of the assignment, for which a final report is to be issued by 14 June 2019. This interim report focuses on the three measures of the strategy that are aimed directly to the target group. These three measures are:

  • An assignment to the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society (MUCF) to distribute national government grants to municipalities and coordination associations that start new or develop “a way in” activities and outreach activities for young people who neither work nor are formally studying in a school or other programme.
  • An assignment to the Swedish National Council of Adult Education (Folkbildningsrådet) to distribute grants from the national government to adult education/residential adult education centres (folkhögskolor) and study circles/non-formal adult education (studieförbund) to match the schooling/training with the individual particular circumstances and the employer’s need for skills/expertise.
  • An assignment to the Swedish National Agency for Education to implement initiatives within their activities for the purpose of preventing students from dropping out of upper secondary school.

Initially, these measures have had a slow start

It has taken time to get started with the measures in the strategy. One contributing factor is that the preparatory work of the national parties has been delayed, among other reasons in part because they had difficulty in interpreting the Government’s mandate and implementing it in tangible form. This applies particularly to the Swedish National Agency for Education, whose initiatives within their activities effort to prevent students from dropping out of upper secondary school didn’t commence until autumn 2017.

The measures seem to be making a difference

The local initiatives funded under the strategy are still at an initial stage. Therefore it is not yet possible to draw any conclusions about their impacts. But those who run the various projects are optimistic on the whole. There are also several examples of concrete results from these efforts, where assistance has been provided to individuals to begin studying or working.

The report points to a number of success factors for the measures implemented. Some of these factors include geographic proximity, personal commitment, and focus on the individual’s needs and personal preferences. In addition, there has been a positive response to environments and activities that do not have a strong character of being part of a governmental authority. The adult education/residential adult education centres, which are often found in the local community and have no official stamp, have an advantage in this respect.

The measures will not benefit everyone

In total, nearly different 50 projects been granted funding under any of the years in which the measures have been in place. However the interest to seek government support to pursue the NEET activities has been much greater than the resources available. Therefore, many projects have seen their applications rejected.

Municipalities and counties with a relatively higher proportion of NEET are somewhat underrepresented among the projects that have been received financial support. That is due in part to the fact that fewer applications have been received from those parts of the country that have the most problems with NEET. However it is also due that applications from municipalities with high proportions of NEET have been granted to a lesser extent. It is the quality of applications that was assessed in their processing, and not the applicants’ need for financial support.

The measures are not set up for dissemination of knowledge

The measures entail limited funds for a limited period of time. Therefore the projects financed within the framework of the strategy function more as pilot projects or experimental activities. However, there is a risk that the knowledge obtained from these pilot studies/experimental activities is not taken advantage of, due to that the projects are not subjected to an evaluation to any sufficient extent. This is partly related to the limited resources available. Neither the national nor local parties involved perceive themselves to have the resources to both conduct the activities and to evaluate it.

The future of the measures is uncertain

The projects testify in several cases that the support from the national government has been crucial for the activity. A grant from the national government means that no single administration needs to bear the financial responsibility for the activities, which has made it easier to get to the work started. It is also often quicker to apply for grants from the national government than to obtain funds via the regular municipal budget process.

However, it is unclear what will happen to the activities when the funding from the national government disappears. This is especially true of projects in adult education. Those who run the projects hope to be able to show such good results that their own principal will want to incorporate and integrate the efforts into the regular activities, but there isn’t always a plan for how this should come about.

Prevention efforts are important future measures

If the Government wants to further develop the measures, the Swedish Agency for Public Management recommends that the Government review the extent to which the measures are designed to achieve the stated objective, how well the governance supports this, and how the Government can improve the long-term precondition for the work.

In the longer term, preventive efforts to prevent young people ending up outside the educational system and the labour market is most likely the most important measure. The primary school has a key role here.