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An Update on Adolescent Social Exclusion in the UK

After a decade of progress on teenage pregnancy, youth crime and other indicators of adolescent social exclusion, the trend is beginning to reverse.

In 2018 Moira Wallace and I published an article in Social Policy Review looking back at New Labour’s policies to reduce adolescent disadvantage and tracking the indicators that they had made their primary targets during this period.

The idea was that Labour invested significant public expenditure and policy effort in trying to remedy multi-dimensional problems of adolescent disadvantage. The effects were intended to be long-term and multi-faceted. However, individual programmes were evaluated in isolation and over a short time-scale. And the Government had long since changed, so nobody was monitoring the effects any longer.

The generation of children whose life-course coincided with most of these policy and expenditure changes was then making the transition to adulthood. So, we wanted to know what happened to them, (especially Moira, who had been a key player in the policy changes as Head of the Social Exclusion Unit under Tony Blair).

What we found was an unadulterated good news story. By then the remarkable decline in teenage pregnancy was well documented. But, surprisingly, our analysis found a similar or greater magnitude in reductions across indicators of child poverty; educational underachievement, school exclusion and truancy, NEET, juvenile crime, and drug and alcohol misuse of youth disadvantage for the cohort who experienced these policies.

Moira has since continued tracking the same indicators over recent years. She presented her early findings yesterday at the London School of Economics’ Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion. It is not good news. Many of the indicators are now moving in the wrong direction. You can listen to a recording of her presentation here.

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