Designing a basic package of support for young people

After the first day’s packed sessions of research presentations and discussions, workshop participants had to apply their understanding of what is required from a South African youth support package to help identify and describe the required components. Photo: Charmaine Smith, SALDRU

What started out in 2015 as a review of the situation of South Africa’s young people – and with continued research under the banner of UCT’s Poverty and Inequality Initiative since then – has in the past four months culminated in this project that looks in much more detail at a model of support for young people. This includes the possible definition, development and implementation of a basic package of support that would help young people to transition successfully through adolescence and into young adulthood.

At the recent workshop, the core research team presented evidence collated for the project to policymakers and international research advisors. SALDRU’s Ariane De Lannoy, who has been driving this workstream since 2015, says the project will, in the first instance, focus on defining a safety net for young people who are not in employment, education or training (NEET). This is intended to help them “reconnect” to institutional support systems, the education system, or the labour market.

To this end, the research team explored the usefulness and feasibility of the European Union’s Youth Guarantee programme, which aims to connect youth to alternative learning, training or work opportunities. By learning from this approach, alongside evidence on the situation of South Africa’s NEET youth, workshop participant tackled design questions for a similar model that would be appropriate for the South African context. These include who to target, what services of support are required to support South Africa’s young people, how to operationalise the various components, and what the possible limitations to the support that can be offered would be.

The project is grounded in an evidence base that has been generated by the various project partners, much of which was consolidated over the past three years and often in partnership with other research and government units.

For example, Ariane’s workshop presentation on data from the Youth Explorer online portal that tracks key indicators on the situation of 15 to 24-year-olds, which helped workshop participants to get a better understanding of the prevalence of NEETs at national, provincial and local levels, and was complemented by a more detailed analysis on the composition of specific NEET groups.

SALDRU’s Ariane De Lannoy set the scene for the workshop with a presentation on the demographic profile of NEET youth in South Africa. Photo: Charmaine Smith, SALDRU

Other research presentations that informed the core building blocks and operationalisation of the proposed support package included:

  • An analysis of the South African policy framework for support to young people who are not in education, employment or training (Lauren Graham, director, CSDA; Solange Rosa, independent policy consultant/DGMT; Ariane De Lannoy, chief researcher, SALDRU; Jessica Breakey, research assistant, CSDA/SALDRU);
  • An overview of existing local mechanisms, services and other opportunities for (re)connecting young people (Shakira Maharaj, innovation director, DGMT; Lauren Graham and Ariane De Lannoy);
  • An overview of evidence from J-PAL’s labour sector on the impacts of skills training programs, job search assistance, and on displacement effects (Lisa Corsetto, senior policy associate, J-PAL Global);
  • Relevant descriptive findings on young work-seekers from South African J-PAL studies (Laura Poswell, executive director, J-PAL Africa and Nilmini Herath, senior research manager, J-PAL Africa);
  • An overview of the EU’s approach to targeting services and implementation (Evelien Storme, doctoral researcher and ANTHUSIA fellow);
  • A review of EU member states’ approaches to data systems for registration, connection, and tracking youth who access support (Eugene Sampson, information systems, data and knowledge management expert); and
  • An overview of EU member states’ approaches to promoting outreach services to youth, and examples of outreach promotion to SA youth (Charmaine Smith, communication and advocacy expert, SALDRU).

The research team is currently working on consolidating the input gathered during this first workshop to inform a draft design of the proposed support package. The work will move forward to a Theory of Change workshop, planned for April, before taking the draft design into rounds of consultation with young people, caregivers, policymakers, and youth development practitioners.

The project is led by SALDRU in partnership with the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) Africa, the Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA) at the University of Johannesburg, the DG Murray Trust (DGMT), and The Jobs Fund. This work is funded and provided with technical support by the European Union-funded Capacity Building Programme for Employment Promotion based in the National Treasury’s Government Technical Advisory Centre.

Saldrupians Laura Poswell and Nilmini Herath, both from the J-PAL Africa project, took workshop participants through interactive sessions to assist in identifying the various components of a package of support for South Africa’s young people. Photo: Charmaine Smith, SALDRU