By politics.co.uk staff
Many more young people aged 16 to 18 are not in education, employment of training than previously thought, the Audit Commission has claimed.
Its report on 'Neets' suggests one in four could be in this situation, dramatically more than the ten per cent average estimated by the government's annual 'snapshot' survey during the last ten years.
The Audit Commission report - which analysed the records of 24,000 young people in ten areas countrywide - found ten per cent were long-term Neets, for six months or more.
"Being out of school and work is often linked with other social issues such as being in care, teenage parenthood, homelessness or ill-health," Audit Commission chairman Michael O'Higgins said.
"The combined effect can sap young people's self-confidence, aspirations and expectations.
"The stark truth is, without better targeted help, there is a huge price to be paid by these individuals, by their children, and by society."
Despite its starker assessment of the overall number of struggling teens the report is upbeat about the prospects for improvement.
It says councils should target responses to local circumstances, support pre-16s at risk of drifting away from school and intervene after 16 "in a way tailored to meet individuals' needs".
"Too often our research showed that Connexions, schools, colleges, Jobcentre Plus, and other youth support services aren't collaborating effectively," Mr O'Higgins added.
"There is duplication, wasted effort, and wasted money. But joined-up schooling, training, local support and timely interventions can nip problems in the bud."