Former children's minister Tim Loughton said last week that improving educational outcomes is the key to tackling youth unemployment. He's absolutely right, and it is early intervention programmes like ours that can help to ensure the most disadvantaged young children and teenagers are able to achieve their full academic, and personal, potential.
In a time of economic austerity it is hardly surprising that public opinion has turned to those receiving benefits from the state, particularly those who do not work. Repeated stereotyping and manipulation of statistics in the media have painted many of Britain's poorest citizens as lazy good-for-nothings living a life of luxury at our expense.
A new 'youth allowance' should replace existing out of work benefits for 18-24 year olds and provide financial support for young people who need it, conditional on participation in purposeful training or intensive job search. Access to inactive benefits should be closed off for all but a very small minority.
Our society sends out confusing messages about when young people become adults, what level of responsibility they should have for themselves and what role they can play. You can smoke, join the army, leave school (this school year anyway) and have sex at 16, drive at 17 but you have to wait until 18 to drink alcohol in a pub and vote. Then you hit 21 and that still retains some significance.
The latest figures on youth unemployment from the Office for National Statistics - which show the unemployment rate for 16 to 24-year-olds is now more than double that of the wider population, with one in five young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) - paint an extremely worrying picture for today's young people, and those who work with them.
There is a huge gap in government policy when it comes to slightly older NEETs. A sustainable and wide-ranging scheme to employ young people who are no longer 16 or 17 is absolutely essential. Some may argue that these schemes exist - and there are initiatives available to encourage youth employment. The problem comes when small businesses aren't kept in the loop about the schemes.