Blogging has been light for the past few days, because I am still coming to terms with the day spent on Friday with a group of young people that I shall call the Uber-Neets. The term "Neets" has been used for many years by civil servants and policy wonks to young people driven to the margins of society who are not in education, employment or training.
Twenty years after the American sociologist Charles Murray warned that a big new underclass was looming, and five years after official studies and ministerial papers revealed the underclass had arrived in the form of the Neets, aged between 16 and 24, they number 2 million and are responsible for a social and economic drag on society that is vastly disproportionate to their numbers.
On Friday, I spent the day with a new and emerging subgroup. I met a group of 50 young people aged in their early twenties. Despite looking for jobs for the last year, only 10% had successfully found employment, while the rest were looking at life on benefits. Those who had been responsible for their education were doing their best to raise their self-esteem by recalling their achievements, but in reality the young people knew that for most of them the likelihood of any gainful employment was small to non-existent and the realisation drove many of them to total despondency.
Sadly, this wasn't a meeting at a dilapidated housing estate in Toxteth or Moss-side, but a graduation ceremony at Oxford University. Five years ago, Neets are far more likely to come from broken homes and to have spent time in care. In Gordon Brown’s Britain they come from “world class" educational establishments.