COUNCIL bosses say reducing the number of teenagers who are not in employment or training is a key priority as they aim for Government backing to tackle the problem.
The Government’s Innovation Fund, which focuses on young people aged 14 and 15, aims to improve their attendance, attitude and behaviour at school and reduce their prospects of becoming long term NEET or not in education, employment and training.
If the application is successful it will be a three-year Tees Valley-wide project aimed at providing intensive support to those most at risk.
It comes after the Mail launched its Work in Progress campaign aimed at highlighting the plight of jobless people in Hartlepool and help improve their prospects.
Anywhere between 500 and 1,500 teenagers could be helped if the Government gives its backing to the programme.
It aims to provide more support to disadvantaged youngsters, improve their employability and reduce their longer-term dependency on benefits.
It is a partnership scheme involving Tees Valley Unlimited (TVU), regional local authorities and a social investor, which will not be paid unless targets are achieved.
TVU has submitted a bid to the Department for Work and Pensions and the cabinet committee will be kept informed.
Damien Wilson, assistant director of regeneration and planning, said: “Tackling the number of NEETs is a key priority for the council and in January 2012, Hartlepool reported NEET at 7.6 per cent for those 16 to 19 years.”
That is against a Tees Valley average of 10.2 per cent who are not in education, employment and training.
Independent Elwick councillor Hilary Thompson said: “It would be really great to see this scheme up and running, but there are massive risks for investors.”
Independent Seaton councillor Cath Hill was pleased it was based on results and called for quality monitoring.
Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond said: “I don’t think anybody has cracked the problem of NEETs nationally and it worries me that this is going to be payment by result.
“I would be more comfortable if we saw a plan rather than a bid.”