During Covid 6.5m people were furloughed. That was approximately 20% of the working population (Business Insights and Conditions survey Feb 2021) Women were disproportionately affected. The arts, entertainment and recreation industry and the accommodation and food services industry were also disproportionately affected (over 50% of workforce were furloughed). All these sectors are employers of SEND young people. There was a 1.5% increase in unemployment nationally as well as Zero hours contracts increasing. New analysis by age band shows that the 18 to 24 years age group has seen the greatest decrease in employees on payrolls since February 2020. SEND young people in this group would have been affected even more so. Estimated UK unemployment rate for all people was 5.1% and now there is even more remote working up to 46.6% (ONS 2020) with 16% of companies exclusively hire remote workers.
In the third national lockdown, 20.5% of all businesses in the Black Country were estimated to be temporarily closed due to COVID-19. In total, the Black Country area had 65,700 employments furloughed at 31st March 2021. As of May 2021, two core Black Country sectors and four sub-sectors are considered as having a particularly high risk to ongoing challenges around the COVID-19 pandemic: retail, visitor economy (including hospitality and tourism), creative industries and aerospace.
What does this mean for young people with SEND?
In the short term, some sectors are probably not hiring whereas others are growing faster than pre-COVID . There is now higher unemployment which mostly affects 16-24 year olds. SEND young people in this age range will also face unique challenges when accessing the labour market. Young people may need to build a CV with less-than-optimal jobs – both zero hours and seasonal work. More remote working may suit some young people with SEND whereas many young people with SEND this will not suit. There is a clear need for better employer engagement and clarity about the bespoke support available for individual circumstances. Many young people with SEND who are educated in special schools may leave school without qualifications employer recognise but are more than able to do the job. There are varied obstacles to work affecting young people with SEND compared to young people without SEND. As well as being limited by a health condition, disability or special educational need young people report barriers and limitations such as difficulties with transport, employers’ perceptions, anxiety or lack of confidence and issues relating to access and support. These young people can also be limited due to lack of qualifications, skills or experiences employer recognise.
The future is optimistic
Following the continued easing of lockdown, key regional indicators continue to suggest an increasingly buoyant local economy. The number of youth claimants and people furloughed continues to fall. In May 2021, there were 12,920 youth claimants in the Black Country, a decrease of 3.8% (-510) from April 2021. The further easing of restrictions on July 19th, including an end to social distancing, has provided a major boost to all sectors – especially those most hard hit. Demand is beginning to increase across all Black Country priority sectors – with a notable rebound in construction and advanced manufacturing. Demand in sectors such as environmental technologies, the public sector and retail are also showing signs of a strong rebound with job postings now hitting pre-pandemic levels. All these sectors are included in Your Future Your Black Country for young people with SEND to explore.