Thinker's Corner

Destination Unknown (Demos, Panton House, 25 Haymarket, London SW1Y 4EN, 0171-321 2200, £9.95), by Tom Bentley and Ravi Gurumurthy, reveals the existence of half a million 16 to 24 year olds who, as far as officialdom is concerned, do not exist because they are not in full-time education, training or work and are not claiming unemployment benefit. The report explains who they are (school-leavers not yet in training or work; mothers or carers; job-seekers not claiming benefit; part-time students; those missing for unknown reasons) and the human cost to society of not engaging with them. This is a brave report because it focuses on an unglamorous group of people with no spending power, but the authors point out that throwing public money at the problem is not the answer. Instead, a completely new youth strategy is needed, including an adult mentor for all young people, to ensure they attain an independent, productive adulthood.

The Real Deal (Demos, Panton House, 25 Haymarket, London, SW1Y 4EN, 0171-321 2200, £11.95), by Tom Bentley and Kate Oakley, describes a project in which 150 marginalised young people were canvassed over eight months for their views on politics, government and social exclusion. While society is youth-obsessed, with baby-boomers reluctant to grow old gracefully, the young themselves are never consulted about what they want. The key findings of the discussions are, unsurprisingly, that these young people are held back by poverty. Too busy struggling with survival to care about who runs the country, they feel alienated from mainstream society. But they do provide constructive solutions to the problems they face, including recommending less political spin, the appointment of a minister for youth and education in practical citizenship. The findings were presented to Tony Blair, David Blunkett and Stephen Byers, who now have the opportunity to transform words into deeds.

This article first appeared in the 31 May 1999 issue of the New Statesman, Between two mental universes