In December 2019, the Basic Package of Support (BPS) research consortium released its final report aimed at conceptualising and testing a programmatic model to support South Africa’s young people who are not in employment, education or training (NEET). The report is accompanied by a series of background reports and working papers that capture in more detail the various pieces of research conducted, and which inform the programme recommendation included in the final report.
The BPS project is a collaboration of SALDRU, University of Cape Town (UCT); Centre for Social Development in Africa, University of Johannesburg; Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab Africa; DG Murray Trust; The Jobs Fund; and the Capacity Building Programme for Employment Promotion (CBPEP), funded by the European Union and based in the Government Technical Advisory Centre in the National Treasury. It built on earlier, and equally collaborative, work by each of these partners, as well as processes led by the Poverty & Inequality Initiative of UCT and SALDRU since 2015.
Background and aim
Recognising the plight of the almost 3 million South African youth who remain excluded from education, training or work opportunities, the BPS research project received funding and technical support from the CBPEP at the end of 2018. The project was officiated with the expressed purpose of:
- defining the building blocks of a comprehensive South African programme of support to young people who are not in employment, education or training;
- determining the programme delivery mechanisms and data systems requirements;
- proposing a policy framework for the programme;
- developing a proposal for a place-specific pilot phase together with a monitoring and evaluation framework, as well as providing estimates of the programme pilot implementation costs.
How did we approach the problem?
The project brought together empirical data analysis, data collection and desktop research, supplemented by consultations and interviews with young people and policymakers. The work included:
- analysis of national datasets for a more detailed understanding of the characteristics of young people who are NEET;
- consolidation of available qualitative data on the barriers to the well-being of young people in South Africa and their request for supportive interventions;
- youth consultations to gather feedback and input on the design of a Basic Package of Support for Youth in the country, findings of which were triangulated with the qualitative data of the earlier studies;
- an exploration of the approach of the European Union Youth Guarantee, including crucial programmatic aspects such as outreach and guidance counselling;
- a desktop review of the South African policy landscape in relation to youth and NEET youth, supplemented by interviews with key government officials in relevant national government departments;
- identification of key lessons from randomised control trials that relate to facilitating young people’s transitions to work and training;
- a high-level scan of the local youth development non-profit sector in relevant areas of youth development – including some crucial design features of some of the youth development programmes; and
- an on-the-ground ‘scoping’ exercise to help prepare the proposal for a location-specific pilot of the BPS.
The BPS design process was held together by a series of workshops that involved the core research team and research advisers from academia, the government policy sphere and civil society.
What is the proposed Basic Package of Support for Young People?
Drawing on evidence on the development, implementation and success of comprehensive interventions that address a number of the barriers associated with being NEET, as well as a range of targeted interventions that improve young people’s chances of success in education and in the labour market, the project proposes a compound activation and guidance intervention.
This intervention takes a positive youth development approach that focuses, at its core, on young people’s agency and capabilities, but also recognises the need to support and help to direct this agency in a way that is beneficial to them and to the realisation of their individual goals.
Providing this kind of approach requires various sections of society and government to work together: it does not regard young people as job-seekers or students only, or not only in need of health care, for example, but recognises the interconnectedness of these states, and the many deprivations that occur simultaneously and that interact to keep youth excluded.
The proposed BPS programme aims to provide NEET youth (aged 15 to 24) with a sense of possibility, and to support their agency and ability to take up pathways towards sustainable livelihoods. It aims to do this by proactively reaching out to these young people and offering tailored, multi-faceted support that can respond to multiple barriers in their lives. The design of the programme includes a face-to-face component that provides advice, adds resources, gives a sense of belonging, and strengthens a young person’s navigational capacities and no longer leaves them to figure out pathways to (re)connection on their own.
Critically, the success of the intervention depends on providing a number of building blocks to young people who are NEET that include guidance counselling; assessments; the development of an individualised action plan, with each young person, that sets out long-term life goals while determining the steps required to reach those goals; active referral to services needed to enable them to take those steps; and a strong follow-up and loop-back system that keeps young people engaged over extended periods of time.
Importantly, the intervention needs to be firmly rooted in the provision and building of local communities of practice that involve governmental and non-governmental providers of services for young people, and that aim to improve service delivery and opportunities.
The programme also needs to be grounded in a thorough understanding of both the cohort of young people it aims to serve and the provision of existing services within their local areas. It is, however, not meant to exist in isolation at that local level: the aim is to connect young people to available services and opportunities in their local area, including state-run services. Therefore, support and commitment at the national, provincial, district and local levels are needed.
This collaboration across all levels of governance is crucial for realising a more streamlined policy landscape, more efficient policy implementation, and for better quality service delivery that is able to tackle the multiple deprivations in the lives of young people.
The BPS proposal is, therefore, for an integrated, multi-departmental policy approach that aligns with the Presidency’s current emphasis on finding solutions for youth unemployment, as well as a new, district-based coordination model that is meant to improve the coherence, efficiency and effectiveness of the implementation of government programmes. The proposed overarching, national institutional framework for the BPS is meant to both ensure sufficient resource allocation and safeguard the quality, integrity and coherence of the intervention when rolled out at scale.
The team is excited to have finalised this first important research and design stage of the work. We now look forward to developing plans for the actual implementation of the programme in a number of pilot locations across the country. We are honoured to be able to continue this work in close collaboration with various partners, including the multi-stakeholder team currently designing the national pathway management pilots as agreed upon in the Presidential Jobs Summit Framework Agreement. These high-level partnerships between governmental and non-governmental stakeholders are what is needed to make the promise of more comprehensive and targeted support to youth who are NEET a reality.
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