Policy and Practice round-up February 2021

09 February 2021

This month we bring you news of children’s poor mental health and the impact of the pandemic on their future earnings; Children’s Mental Health week from the Place2Be; the interim government response to the Augar Report; the removal of gateway providers for Kickstart Scheme grants; 55,000 job losses in the creative industries; and the Edge Foundation’s first Skills Shortage Bulletin of 2021.

Increasing reports documenting children’s poor mental health during the pandemic

In the last few weeks there have been increasing numbers of reports on children’s poor mental health. Anne Longfield, the outgoing Children’s Commissioner, highlighted that Children’s Mental Health services in England were unable to meet demand before the pandemic struck, and there is even more pressure on them now. In the year before the pandemic, referrals to mental health services rose by 35%, but treatments only increased by 4%.

The NHS reported that one in six children now have a probable mental health condition, and that clinically significant mental health conditions amongst children had risen by 50% compared to three years earlier.

Data from England's Mental Health of Children and Young People (MHCYP) survey published in the Lancet in January shows that 27% of young women have probable mental health problems.

Impact of school closure on future outcomes and income

As well as a tsunami of mental health problems, research is also estimating that the education upheaval of the pandemic will have far-reaching impacts on children’s future earning power. The Institute of Fiscal Studies has estimated that children will lose £40,000 in income over their lifetimes as a result of missing out on schooling during the pandemic, with the negative effects on children experiencing disadvantage likely to be larger.

Children’s Mental Health Week: Express Yourself

The first week of February was Children’s Mental Health week with the theme Express Yourself. Our partner, the Place2Be, which co-authored the CLA’s Arts, Health & Wellbeing Briefing, has been posting resources and information – do check out their feeds for some inspiration.

Interim government response to the Augar Report published

The Department for Education (DfE) has said that it will publish a full response to the 53 recommendations made in the Augar Report at the same time as the next Comprehensive Spending Review, currently expected in the autumn. In the meantime the short interim response, published at the same time as the Skills for Jobs White Paper, includes a commitment to look at – among other things – the ‘treatment of foundation years’. A consultation on reforms is planned for spring 2021. 

The report also signals DfE’s continuing focus away from the creative industries and cultural sectors:

We will set out how the higher education teaching grant will be used next year to ensure that more of taxpayers’ money is spent on supporting provision which aligns with the priorities of the nation, such as healthcare, STEM and specific labour market needs.’

The onus will be on the cultural and creative sectors to make the case for their ‘specific labour market needs’ for funding for courses. 

The DfE announced that it will freeze the tuition fee cap for one year, and that ‘further changes to the student finance system will be considered ahead of the next Comprehensive Spending Review.’

Kickstart scheme – requirement for gateway providers scrapped

The Government is currently offering Kickstart Scheme grants to businesses to fund six-month new job placements for 16 to 24 year-olds on Universal Credit who are at risk of long term unemployment. Placements can start until the end of December 2021.

Funding covers 100% of the National Minimum or Living Wage for 25 hours a week for six months, employer National Insurance contributions, and pension automatic enrolment contributions. There is an additional grant of £1,500 per young person to cover start up costs, training, or other expenses to support young people to develop employability skills.

Previously employers offering less than 30 placements needed to recruit through a gateway provider, which was paid £300 per young person recruited. In January this requirement was removed and employers can now apply directly to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for the funds.

55,000 job losses in the creative industries

Reports are starting to be published about the impact of the pandemic on jobs in the creative industries. The Creative PEC andCentre for Cultural Value research out in December showed 55,000 job losses from April to September 2020.

Skills Shortage Bulletin: young people affected by pandemic

If you are interested in understanding what skills employers are looking for from young people the Edge Foundation’s Skills Shortage Bulletin which comes out several times a year is a good source.

Useful insights from January’s bulletin are:

  • Research by the Learning and Work Institute shows that the pandemic is exacerbating pre-existing inequalities, with young people particularly hard hit by a double whammy of disrupted education and a tough labour market. There has been a surge in unemployment, with those from lower-income families and without a degree-level qualification hardest hit. Being unemployed when you are young has been shown to have lasting impacts in later life with higher risks of unemployment, lower pay, poorer mental health, and diminished life chances.
  • The Open University’s Business Barometer shows that despite the number of available job candidates significantly growing, three in five employers are reporting that they are still unable to attract the skills they require. The bulletin highlights that in 2019 the OECD reported that one of the biggest risks to national education systems today is that ‘traditional ways of educating are losing currency and relevance and are not adapting quickly enough to the needs of a dynamic economy’.