Foyle SDLP MLA, Gerard Diver, has called on the Northern Ireland Executive to grant free public transport to young people not in employment or learning.
This would, suggested the SDLP Employment and Learning spokesperson, help make education accessible to those with lower academic attainment rates and/or income.
Mr. Diver said: “Rural community transport costs in particular can be prohibitive. This move would assist greatly those young people living alone or who find themselves in the benefit trap. It would greatly assist the social mobility and educational attainment of those in the NEET category.”
Mr. Diver was speaking after the Assembly’s DEL committee was briefed by the NEETS NI Forum. The Foyle MLA also expressed dismay that no one could agree on the actual scale of the problem.
He said: “The vast number of young people not in employment or education is not only an issue for the young people themselves but society as a whole. The skills deficit is only mounting for future administrations.
“We need to take drastic action now. Free transport to education is a small immediate step in the right direction. Our ultimate aim of course is the total elimination of any ‘not in education, employment or training’ category.”
An employability manager, Mr. Diver vowed to make this a priority in the next mandate.
He added: “If we don’t give our young citizens a bus ticket to class how many will go on to secure plane tickets for work in England, Australia or New Zealand, never to return home.
“I think it is a very small step which will have a massive impact on NEET rates in the short term and the economy in the long term. I am happy to champion this call by the NEETS NI Forum. It is progressive innovative thinking which will clearly help address a number of societal woes.”