Into the mainstream Care leavers entering work, education and training. Maggie Allen

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1 Into the mainstream

2

3 Into the mainstream Care leavers entering work, education and training Maggie Allen

4 The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has supported this project as part of its programme of research and innovative development projects, which it hopes will be of value to policy makers, practitioners and service users. The facts presented and views expressed in this report are, however, those of the author and not necessarily those of the Foundation. Joseph Rowntree Foundation The Homestead 40 Water End York YO30 6WP Website: www. jrf.org.uk North Yorkshire County Council 2003 First published 2003 by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation All rights reserved. Reproduction of this report by photocopying or electronic means for non-commercial purposes is permitted. Otherwise, no part of this report may be reproduced, adapted, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise without the prior written permission of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. A CIP catalogue record for this report is available from the British Library. ISBN (paperback) ISBN (pdf: available at Cover design by Adkins Design Prepared and printed by: York Publishing Services Ltd 64 Hallfield Road Layerthorpe York YO31 7ZQ Tel: ; Fax: ; Website: Further copies of this report, or any other JRF publication, can be obtained either from the JRF website (www.jrf.org.uk/bookshop/) or from our distributor, York Publishing Services Ltd, at the above address.

5 Contents Acknowledgements Executive summary vii viii 1 Introduction 1 Background to the study 1 The research project 1 Outline of the report 2 2 Method 3 The sample 3 The interview process 4 Background data 5 3 The young people 6 About the young people 6 Activity at first interview 6 Degree of change since leaving care and plans for the future 9 4 Into the mainstream what factors influenced the young people s economic engagement? 11 The nature of the looked after experience 11 Schooling and educational achievement 12 Careers support and advice 14 Financial concerns 15 Parenthood 15 Conclusions 16 5 Where are they now? A year after care 17 Young people s situations a year after leaving care 17 Number of changes through the year 17 6 Staying involved: what factors promoted or prevented the young people s ongoing economic engagement? 20 Support 20 Sources of support 21 What type of support is useful? 23 Financial concerns 27 Personal circumstances 27 Parenthood 28 Attitudes and self-motivation 29 7 Conclusions and implications 31 Implications for policy and practice 31 Issues for future research 33 References 35

6 Appendix 1: Local authority responsibilities towards care leavers 36 Appendix 2: The first interview 37 Appendix 3: The second interview 39 Appendix 4: Profile of interviewees 40 vi

7 Acknowledgements Thanks are due to the many people who have supported and been involved in this project. A particular thank you to the 36 young people who so willingly shared their stories and enabled this study to be written. To Malcolm Stone for his work on the original proposal and to the research team who interviewed the young people: Ellie MacWhinnie, Marie Milburn, Jane Pullan, Enid Wilson. To North Yorkshire County Council for its support in enabling the study to go ahead. To the Joseph Rowntree Foundation for its financial support and to the members of the advisory group for their many helpful suggestions and comments throughout the study: Diane Christon (North Yorkshire Business and Enterprise Council), Jeanette Clewes (Guidance Enterprises Group Ltd), Maggie Jones (Chair, Joseph Rowntree Foundation), Gill Keithley (Barnardo s), Simon Kirk (North Yorkshire Health Authority), and Professor Mike Stein, of the University of York, for his additional advice and support. And finally to Jenny Reynolds for her editorial support. vii

8 Executive summary Research has shown that young people leaving care are less likely to be involved in education, training or employment and are more vulnerable to poor life chances and social exclusion in later life. This study sought to examine care leavers transitions to independent living and to identify the factors that help and hinder their economic engagement. The research involved semi-structured interviews with a small group of young people shortly after leaving care and one year later. The interviews explored their current and previous economic circumstances and activities, their support networks and the factors that affected their involvement in post-16 career options, such as housing needs, substance abuse and debt. Data from their social services records were also included in the analysis. A number of themes emerged. Care history Young people who enjoyed a relatively stable looked after experience were more likely to be settled post-16. Important factors that affected their care experience included the age they entered care, the reasons that brought them there, and the number and type of placements they experienced. Care history affected young people s ability to build and maintain significant relationships, their schooling, and their attitudes and self-esteem. Educational achievement The young person s care experience had an impact on their educational achievement. Because of their disrupted childhood, a number of young people were already struggling with their schoolwork when they entered care. Schooling was further affected by moves to new placements that on occasions, also required a change of school. On these occasions, young people struggled because schools were following different curricula. Getting behind in their work undermined young people s motivation and self-confidence and had a bearing on their educational achievement. Most young people left school with few or no qualifications. Financial worries Young people were deterred from continuing with their education or undertaking training because of concerns about how they would support themselves during that time. Training and benefit allowances reflect an expectation that a young person will be living in the parental home, without the costs associated with independent living. Although young people could find part-time work to supplement their income they were discouraged from doing so because of the complicated rules on housing benefit. The interviews also revealed that a number of young people were ill-informed about care leaver benefits. Informal and professional support Professional and informal support were crucial in enabling young people to overcome the difficulties arising out of their childhood experiences and current circumstances in order to enter and remain engaged in employment, training or education. Young people benefited from help in finding out about their career options, developing plans and accessing opportunities. Professionals were best placed to provide this type of support, notably those professionals such as Lifeskills mentors and New Deal advisers who had long-term, consistent engagement with the young person. Help was also obtained from careers advisers, teachers and others close to the young person. Young people who could access emotional support fared better. This type of support included encouragement to apply for jobs or training, exhortation to stick at what they were doing, and someone who was available when so much else in their lives was changing. Young people who had a history of being moved on were most in need of viii

9 Executive summary this type of support because they were most likely to drop out when life became challenging. In general, emotional support was provided by family or substitute family members, but some young people found this type of help from befriending professionals, such as sessional workers. Young people also benefited from help in easing them across the transition from being cared for to caring for themselves, e.g. managing their budgets and keeping house. Family or substitute family members often provided the practical assistance young people needed, such as an evening meal or help with the laundry, although in some cases a landlady or significant other provided the bridge into young adulthood. Ex-foster carers were also an important source of support, often some time after the young person had left home and even where the young person had little initial contact with the foster carer. When professionals helped Professionals were rated by young people when they had a long-term or well-established relationship with the care leaver; when the professional provided informal or befriending support or support that reflected the care leaver s new, young adult status; and when the help the young person needed was flexible and tailored to their circumstances. Life circumstances The circumstances surrounding the care leaver s transition to independence played a significant part in influencing his or her success. Settled post-16 circumstances, such as accommodation, relationships and health, were associated with engagement with post-16 economic options. Young people in secure accommodation ideally living with family members, in a substitute family structure, or in supported housing were more likely to enter and remain engaged in their chosen activity. Young people who had to cope with difficult issues and a significant amount of change after care struggled to stay in work or continue with a course of study. Factors that affected them included substance abuse; poor health; the breakdown of a relationship and loss of other friendships/relationships; bereavement; and frequent house moves. Young people were more likely to be able to ride out these difficulties when they had the support of a significant other professional or informal helper available to them. Parenthood Young mothers in the group struggled with the same issues as the rest of the sample, but in some cases their worries were greater. For example, mothers were particularly concerned about their financial responsibilities and the effect of work on their benefit entitlements. They also faced additional challenges. Mothers were deterred from obtaining work or developing their skills and education because of difficulties obtaining childcare and problems of travelling out of rural areas to take up employment and training opportunities. Their concerns about being a good mother and looking after their children also encouraged young mothers to delay continuing with their education or pursuing career goals until the child was older. Despite these issues the young mothers tended to show greater maturity than their peers and were moving more rapidly towards an independent adult status. Problems associated with a rural area The size and sparsely populated nature of the study area created a number of problems. As was the case for the mothers, opportunities in rural areas were limited. Taking up opportunities could involve moving away from vital support networks. When the young people were in care, subsequent placements were often some distance from a home area and young people found it difficult to ix

10 Into the mainstream maintain contact with friends and family. It also made it difficult to ensure young people continued at the same school when placements broke down. Attitudes and motivation Care leavers self-reliance and attitudes were important factors in helping them to achieve a successful young adulthood. Attitudes to education were also important and underwent a shift after leaving care when young people were exposed to the difficulties of obtaining reasonably paid work with few qualifications. Many of the care leavers expressed regret that they had not fared better at school and, in some cases, a desire to continue with their education in order to improve their future prospects. Success in the face of adversity In view of the adverse circumstances of their childhood and, in some cases, the looked after experience, many of the young people showed remarkable resilience in the transition to young adulthood. Faced with many more obstacles than their peers from stable backgrounds, they overcame financial difficulties, substance abuse, relationship breakdown and ill health at the same time as they sought to find and hold on to settled housing, establish themselves in a new work or educational environment and keep house for the first time. Implications for policy and practice The study revealed a number of areas in which policy and practice could be changed in order to improve young people s chances of success on leaving care. Chances could be enhanced by: improving the professional support available to young people, e.g. by making it more appropriate to the care leaver s new, young adult status; by making it flexible and tailored to the young person s needs; and by ensuring that it is provided by a few professionals who are a consistent presence in the young person s life ensuring employment and careers services meet the particular needs of care leavers, such as support in dealing with the demands of independent living compared with peers who continue to live in the family home facilitating the development of young people s informal support networks tackling the numerous financial barriers to training and education, including barriers to resuming their basic education in later life helping young people to be informed about and to access the range of benefits and support available to them on leaving care minimising disruption to the young person s education while in care and maximising their involvement while at school by ensuring schools follow the same curriculum; by helping a new pupil catch up with classmates; and by exploring new initiatives such as learning mentors developing strategies to address financial and practical issues arising out of living in a sparsely populated, rural area, including young people s difficulties in keeping in touch with people when moved to new placements, lack of local opportunities and poor transport links developing support that tackles young people s emotional and behavioural problems before they become entrenched and enabling young people to build on the considerable resilience and selfdetermination they demonstrate both during and after care. x

11 1 Introduction Background to the study Care leavers vulnerability to unemployment and poorer educational achievement is well documented (Biehal et al., 1995; Stein, 1997; Stein and Wade, 2000). Between 2000 and 2002 only 37 per cent of care leavers within England achieved at least one GCSE or GNVQ compared with 94 per cent of 16-year-olds in the general population. In the academic year 2000/1, just 6 per cent of care leavers in the large rural shire county where this study took place obtained five A C GCSEs compared with 59 per cent of young people leaving school in the county who achieved five or more A C GCSEs (Department of Health, 2002) and a national average of 52 per cent. Care leavers post-16 prospects are equally disadvantaged (Social Exclusion Unit, 1999). For example, a survey involving 2,905 care leavers found that 11 per cent were working full-time, 4 per cent were in part-time work, 28 per cent were involved in youth training, further and higher education and 51 per cent were unemployed (Broad, 1998). Locally, in 1999/2000 half of the care leavers in the county in which the study took place were not involved in any economic activity compared with just 3 4 per cent of other Year 11 young people (Guidance Enterprises Group Ltd). Supporting care leavers A number of studies have documented the link between employment support for care leavers and their chances of remaining economically engaged (Lakey et al., 2001). Lakey et al. found that frequent moves between schools meant care leavers were more likely to drop out of school before taking exams. These young people were also more likely to require extra support when starting work because of emotional difficulties and low selfesteem. However, care leavers were less likely to have family support that might help them through their adjustment to work or further education and training. Furthermore, the economic pressures of living independently meant that many care leavers remained out of work because concerns about the risk to their housing benefit prevented them from accepting low-paid jobs. In 1999, the Department of Health launched the Quality Protects Programme (QPP), which aimed to enhance the life chances of young people leaving care by improving the support they receive during the transition to economic independence (see Appendix 1 for information on local authority responsibilities to care leavers). This research was conducted in order to examine how young people s chances could be improved and the targets of the QPP met. Legislative changes since the start of the project mean that care is now delivered according to the standards set by the Children (Leaving Care) Act It is hoped that the findings from the research will inform and enhance the service offered to care leavers as part of this new legislative framework. The research project Aims The study aimed to understand the factors that affected the care leaver s ability to engage in education, training and employment from the young person s perspective. The project addressed the following questions: How did frequent changes in schooling and care placements affect the young person s ability to negotiate the transition to economic independence? What support networks were available to young people and how did they impact on care leavers current and future involvement in education, training and employment activities? How did care leavers personal circumstances, such as their accommodation and relationships, affect their economic involvement? 1

12 Into the mainstream Approach The study involved semi-structured interviews with a sample of care leavers conducted by practitioners working in the looked after system. The research aimed to unravel the process of entering the world of work, training or education by interviewing young people shortly after leaving care and one year later. Outline of the report Chapter 2 outlines the study method. The circumstances of the young people shortly after leaving care are presented in Chapter 3. Chapter 4 reports on the factors young people believed affected their economic choices and decisions on leaving care. The young people s work, training and education activities a year after care are presented in Chapter 5. The factors that promoted and prevented young people s social and economic engagement a year after leaving care are reported in Chapter 6. Chapter 7 summarises the key findings and explores their implications for policy and practice. 2

13 2 Method The sample The study involved 36 young people who had been cared for under the auspices of the Children Act 1989, Section 31 or 20, and who had left care before the implementation of the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 in October The majority of interviewees had left care less than a year before the interview, although 6 per cent had been out of care for more than a year. Young people were included in the study if they had been looked after for three months or more and had continued to be accommodated by the local authority at some point after their sixteenth birthday. Eight of the group were looked after under a Section 31 care order, as opposed to the more common voluntary looked after accommodation status (Children Act 1989, Section 20). A court grants a care order where it is satisfied that a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm as a result of the care it is under, or if the child is beyond parental control. Although technically still in the care of the local authority (LA) by virtue of the care order, these young people were living within the community and not with foster carers or in a residential children s centre. In these cases, the LA continued to be responsible for their financial maintenance and accommodation costs, but in any other respects the young people were similar to those who had already left care. Sample design and recruitment The sample was designed to represent a range of care experiences and young people were recruited according to factors such as the length of time since leaving care, their looked after experience, gender and any special needs. Young people were recruited from the caseload of a number of social work teams from two areas of the local authority. A social worker introduced the project to the young person. If the care leaver expressed an interest in taking part they were sent further information about the study. Finally, one of four sessional workers who conducted the interviews contacted the young person to arrange the interview. Sessional workers are involved in social work teams on an ad hoc basis and offer befriending support to young people. The original research design ensured that no sessional worker would interview someone already known to them. However, the design was revised once it became apparent that young people known to sessional workers were more readily engaged in the research and more open during the interviews. To ensure that young people felt able to opt out of the study they were given information about the project separately from the sessional worker s invitation to take part. Only once the young person had agreed to participate did the interviewer approach them to arrange the interview. Sessional workers endeavoured to keep the interview process separate from any work they were doing with the young person in cases where a relationship existed before the interview. In some cases the researcher knew a young person in her capacity as the local authority s Development Worker for Leaving Care. Although she was not a case holder for any of the interviewees, the researcher had a role in overseeing some of their care plans. To avoid including information in the analysis that was not obtained through the interviews all transcripts were anonymised. The meetings of the research advisory group and academic adviser also provided an independent check for the data collection. Thirty-six young people agreed to be interviewed in the first stage. Four first-stage interviews were excluded from the final analysis because of missing data, although details of the young person s activities were included in the aggregate analysis. Young people were given 20 for their time at the start of the interview. In order to encourage care leavers to remain involved in and informed about the research, they were sent a thank-you note following the interview and a card and brief update on the research at Christmas. 3

14 Into the mainstream Twenty-one out of the original sample of 36 were interviewed one year later. Out of the 15 young people lost to the sample at the second stage, nine appeared to have preferred not to continue with the research because they did not respond to a first or subsequent follow-up letter; three could not be traced; two could not be interviewed because of work or life commitments; and another withdrew on the day of the interview. It was suggested that some interviewees declined to take part in the second stage because the first interview had been cathartic: an opportunity for the young people to tell their story and vent their frustrations with the care system. Information about the circumstances of five of the young people who did not take part in the second stage was obtained from the local authority and incorporated in Figure 5 in Chapter 5. The interview process Figure 1 outlines the recruitment and interview process. The interviews The interviews were conducted over the summer period. Interviews were tape-recorded and interviewers also completed an interview feedback form. Using a semi-structured approach, the interviews explored the education, training and employment history of the interviewee, support networks available during this time and details about the interviewee s situation, such as their accommodation and financial circumstances (see Appendices 2 and 3 for detailed interview schedules). The interview schedule covered four areas: 1 the construction of a sociogram detailing the interviewee s support network and significant relationships 2 structured questions about the content of the sociogram 3 profile sheets for each period of education, training and employment 4 profile sheets for each person in the support network or gaps in support. Figure 1 The interview process June 2000 July to September 2000 July to September interviewers recruited. 2 2 hour preparation sessions 36 interviewees approached. 35 interviews completed 21 interviewees interviewed again Data from SSD records collated Interviewees identified. 3 months + after leaving care December 2000 Pilot interviews and feedback sessions. Adjustments made Christmas card and research update sheet sent to interviewees by interviewer 4

15 Method Stage two interview schedule The follow-up interview provided an opportunity to find out about the young person s progress during the preceding year and examine, in more depth, issues raised in the first interview. The second interview (see Appendix 3) also involved completing a timeline that recorded the timing of significant events or circumstances, such as health needs or a change in accommodation and their impact on the young person s career progress. Confidentiality Interviewees were assured that information would not be seen by anyone outside the research team, unless there were concerns about child protection or safety. Background data Where agreement was obtained, information held on interviewees social services files was used to provide a more detailed history of the interviewee s earlier life, such as the age of becoming looked after. This did not involve using information from case recording, but from the computer-held records giving information on the number of placements they had experienced and the statutory basis for the original involvement with that young person. The computer records did not contain information on issues such as school attendance. 5

16 3 The young people About the young people The sample comprised 21 young women and 15 young men aged between 16 and 21 years old at the first interview. Details about the age of becoming looked after and types of placement are reported in Appendix 4. Figure 2 summarises the age at which the young people entered and left care. As is common for care leavers nationally (Biehal et al., 1995), the majority of the sample (n=14) entered care aged 14. Six young people entered care at 13. The age at which young people left care Figure 2 Age interviewees became looked after by age of leaving care Number left care by age of entry years old 17 years old 18 years old <= Age entered care Figure 3 Type of placements in last episode prior to leaving care, by gender Number of interviewees Male Female Family Foster Residential Foster and residential Type of placement reflected national trends. Half the group left care or went to live in the community on a care order at the age of 16; nine left when they were 17 and seven when they were 18. Figure 3 details the final care placement of the interviewees. The majority of young people lived in a foster placement. Activity at first interview Figure 4 summarises the young people s economic situations at the time of the first interview. Just under a third of the young people were unemployed at this stage (n=12), 25 per cent (n=9) were employed, with a further 17 per cent (n=6) employed and involved in some type of career training or work-based learning. The remainder were involved in full-time education (14 per cent, n=5) or full-time carers (11 per cent, n=4). Two young people engaged in full-time education were also engaged in part-time work, but this is not shown on the pie chart because it was not their primary activity. Employment and work-based learning Interviewees were involved in a range of jobs such as building, hairdressing, catering, retail, car repair and sales. Table 1 provides a snapshot of interviewees work, accommodation situations and care experiences. All names have been changed to preserve the interviewees anonymity. Figure 4 Economic activity at the first interview Unemployed 33% n=36 Carers 11% Full-time education 14% Employed no training 25% Employed training/work-based learning 17% 6

17 The young people Table 1 Employment and work-based learning situations at the first interview Age at Age entered care Young Terms and first and type of person Employment conditions Accommodation interview placement Ben Builder 1 day per week Officially left care but 18 12, foster care NVQ day release living with relatives with family; placed with at age 12 care order Jeff Hairdresser NVQ day release Supported 17 14, foster care accommodation Mike Mechanic NVQ day release Living with mother 16 13, foster care Frank Seasonal work Short-term contract Homeless, staying 21 14, foster care at leisure park with friends Mandy Shop assistant Full-time Supported lodgings 18 13, foster and in a supermarket residential care Alison Office worker NVQ day release Supported accommodation Karen Waitress Seasonal Living with 19 11, foster care boyfriend s family Derek Apprentice Not recorded Supported 20 12, foster care; mechanic accommodation care order Jemima Packing shelves Full-time, no Council 19 13, placed with at a supermarket career development accommodation family Nancy Agency work Casual Housing association 17 14, foster care flat Isaac Bricklaying Full-time Girlfriend s family 17 15, foster care Tanya Care assistant Full-time Friends and family 17 15, foster and residential care; care order Ellis Seasonal straw Cash in hand Supported Not Not recorded treater and claiming accommodation but recorded Jobseeker s Allowance unhappy sharing with drug users Linda Shop assistant Part-time Living with husband Not Not recorded in independent recorded accommodation Carl Catering NVQ No details 19 6 weeks, foster care 7

18 Into the mainstream Short-term employment Four of the group were employed in seasonal or short-term work. For example, Ellis was working as a farm labourer. Some of them were making plans for further employment. Ellis was hoping to combine work with part-time education and Frank was looking for a job paying decent money : I will not be doing any education or training since I am too old for that. I would like a proper job earning decent money. I am going to get in touch with the job centre about a job at the meat factory. Hopefully I might be able to start when the season finishes I don t think I will enjoy it as much but it s a job. (Frank) Long-term employment Eleven of the young people were in more permanent employment. As would be expected for people of this age, the wages were generally low. In particular, the majority of young women were in low-paid and low-skilled jobs, such as care assistant and shop work. Young men seemed to have more opportunities to combine employment with day release. Five young people were involved with NVQ training schemes but only one of these was a woman. Education Five young people were involved in full-time education (Table 2). Three of them were at college Wendy and Rachel were pursuing a basic skills course and Olivia was taking a GNVQ. Ron and Lance were at school Lance repeating a final year in his school sixth form. Lance and Olivia were entitled to income support as they were under 19, in non-advanced further education and estranged from their parents. Olivia was claiming this benefit after supporting herself through part-time work in the previous year. Lance was working part-time and earning more than he could claim through income support, although he was eligible for other support such as housing benefit. Rachel was supported through a care order. Parenthood Three of the care leavers were full-time mothers and one, Sandy, was pregnant at the time of the first interview (Table 3). Unemployment Twelve care leavers were not involved in any education, training or employment. Three of these young people had been looked after under a care order, as opposed to the more common voluntary looked after status (Table 4). Table 2 Young people s educational involvement at the first interview Age at first Name Situation Accommodation interview Care history Lance Retaking final year at Living with ex-foster carer 18 16, foster care school Olivia About to start a two-year Supported accommodation 16 13, foster and residential college course left after care a month because could not cope with the work Rachel Basic skills course at Supported housing 17 12, foster and residential college care; care order Wendy Basic skills course at Living with grandmother 17 16, foster care with college grandmother Ron Finishing school education No details 18 14, foster care 8

19 The young people Degree of change since leaving care and plans for the future The young people s situations as recorded in the tables belie the degree of change they experienced both preceding and following the first interview. Only two of the young people Ben and Carl had remained in the same situation since they left care. Twelve out of the 36 young people for which there were data had experienced five or more changes since leaving care. For example, Mandy had worked in a number of short-term chambermaid and cleaning jobs and was working in a Table 3 Circumstances of young mothers at the first interview Age at first Name Situation Accommodation interview Care history Sandy Expectant mother Supported housing 16 14, foster and residential awaiting rehousing in care; care order temporary LA accommodation Fay Full-time carer with Independent housing 17 Not available one child with partner Elizabeth Full-time carer on LA housing 19 13, foster care income support Isobel Full-time carer on House rented through 19 14, not available income support housing association Table 4 Situations of young people unemployed at the first interview Age at first Name Accommodation interview Care history Penny Supported accommodation 18 14, foster care; care order Graham Housing association flat 17 14, foster and residential care Gillian Housing association flat 18 11, foster care; care order Beatrice Living at home but staying with 18 16, foster care boyfriend most of time. No income support or Jobseeker s Allowance Debbie Student accommodation (about 18 16, foster care to start college) Helen No details 16 14, foster care Carol Housing association flat 19 14, foster care; care order Harry No details 17 16, foster and residential care Amy No details 16 16, foster and residential care Neil Supported hostel accommodation 21 13, foster care Anthony Living with family 17 14, residential care Ken Involved in Learning Gateway 17 12, foster and residential care training initiative. Living in supported accommodation out of LA area 9

20 Into the mainstream supermarket at the time of the first interview. It could be argued that the period of flux and change that many of the young people went through mirrors the experiences of young people from stable backgrounds. Other research has shown that young people can experience a number of jobs or courses before they settle on a more stable career path (Dolton et al., 1999). However, the number of changes suggests the young people in the study experienced a particularly turbulent time. In particular, changes were often for the worse, such as a move out of work and into unemployment, and change was often precipitated by personal difficulties, such as problems with accommodation or the ending of a significant relationship. In many cases, the degree of instability reflected the absence of a clear plan of action and signified a period of drift. The number of young people who were going through their transition to adulthood with no firm vocational/employment plan was significant and concerning in terms of their likely ability to engage socially and economically (Department of Health, 1999, p. 19, para. 5.1). Approximately half the sample had no plan for the future. For example, only Carl was involved in a long-term course of study although it would be expected that a high proportion of young people aged would be completing academic or vocational courses at this point in their lives. Even when young people did have plans, the interviews a year later demonstrated that plans were often thwarted. For example, talking about his hopes at the first interview, Jeff, a hairdressing apprentice with day release at college, commented: I ll do this for a while, but not necessarily for the whole of my career. By the second interview Jeff had left his job because of problems in his personal life precipitated by the breakdown of the relationship with his girlfriend. Similarly, Mandy was working at a supermarket and felt that she would like to continue working there for the next year at least, with a possible caveat: but who knows? A year later she was unemployed. The next chapter explores some of the factors that influenced how people came to be in their respective work, training or education situations and whether they remained in them. 10

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