A NEW strategy aimed at reducing the number of school leavers not in education, employment or training (NEET) in Monmouthshire has been praised by cabinet members.

The replacement policy, titled A Great Start for All, will serve the authority for the next three years after the council’s cabinet approved the final draft strategy.

Cllr Richard John, member for children and young people, said a key part of the strategy was intervening at an earlier age.

The number of young people aged 16 to 24 categorised as NEET in Monmouthshire stood at 1.4 per cent in 2017, a reduction from 2.8 per cent in 2013.

The Welsh average was 1.6 per cent in 2017.

Cllr John said the figure in Monmouthshire remains “too high.”

“It is below the Welsh average but 1.4 per cent is too high,” he said.

“That’s too many young people who are not going on to the benefits and rewards you can get from being on the path to a career and we’ve got to put that right.”

The new strategy aims at intervening at an earlier age, from primary school level, to identify children who may be at risk of becoming NEET.

It also aims to promote links with businesses for training and education, and focuses on developing apprenticeships.

“If we are serious about social justice, if we are serious about tackling poverty in Monmouthshire, the way to do it is through education and getting young people on a path towards employment,” Cllr John told the meeting.

Cllr Bob Greenland, deputy leader of Monmouthshire County Council (MCC), said a job is ‘fundamental’ to everyone’s well-being and praised the “excellent report.”

“Even if we have one person who falls into this category of not being in education, training or employment, it is one too many for that individual and we should do everything we can to reduce the numbers,” he said.

Cllr Sara Jones praised the report and wider issues such as improving careers advice also needed to be addressed.

And Cllr Penny Jones said she also had concerns that careers advice is “not good enough.”

Paul Matthews, chief executive of MCC, said that improving careers advice was an issue facing many councils.

Mr Matthews said work is being brought forward which could bring a ‘significant’ investment to support careers development and choices across schools in south east Wales.