NEET calling is not neat

Lately I’ve been doing some work with public sector organisations on the issue of young people in employment and enterprise. Unemployment among young people is a major issue in the UK and I believe all sectors of the community have a part to play in addressing this.

What strikes me is the way young people are labelled. NEET is a term commonly used by government departments, councils and public sector agencies to describe young people ‘Not in Employment, Education or Training’. What I find disturbing is that the term is used so frequently that NEETs have come to represent a sub-group of the community identified with failure.

While the reasons for young people attaining ‘NEET’ status are complex and those young people themselves share part of the huge responsibility to resolve the problem, I don’t think they are helped by being branded NEETs or failures.

Apparently, the term NEET was invented in the UK and, ironically, the first recorded use was by the Government’s now-defunct Social Inclusion Task Force. Now there is stigma attached to the term and I believe its use is insulting.

If we want these young people to enter employment, education and training, I suggest we start by treating them with courtesy and as people. If they throw this back, it is no excuse to call names. We have continue to help them to turn their own lives around. It’s a tough challenge.

But if we outlaw the use of NEET, what should the Department for Work and Pensions, Jobcentre Plus and other agencies call this group? Does it matter? Will it not just be another label or piece of jargon? Isn’t there more important work for us all to do than worry about labels?

• Robert Zarywacz started please and thanks with his brother, Simon Zarywacz, to promote courtesy in UK business. Robert is also courtesy consultant with the National Campaign for Courtesy. He has written business articles for a number of publications and blogs and runs Zarywacz, a communications partnership, with Simon at

My word is my bond

Recent media attention on certain practices at some banks could lead us to think that no one in business shows any respect to others. However, we ought to remember that there are millions of businesses in the UK, of all types and sizes, and that many people in business do respect and show courtesy to others, even if it’s not worthy of media attention.

For example, several years ago I referred some business to an associate, who very kindly paid me a percentage for the referral. This weekend a letter popped through my door with another cheque in respect of repeat work from this referral. I had no idea and it was a pleasant surprise. What a gentleman!

Then there are business people who give their time generously as free mentors, pass on their tips and advice when you ask them a question about their specific field or offer you support during rough times. It is good to remember these when we are confronted with case after case of rogue traders and other dodgy dealers, all of whom makes entertaining television or reading but at the expense of their poor victims.

It is right to expect every business to abide by the law and for those that break it to be brought to justice. It is also right to recognise those who go beyond legal or other obligations to provide more than a purely commercial service and contribute more fully to communities.

“My word is my bond” still holds true for some people. Perhaps the media should highlight those businesses that serve as role models for all of us.


Ann Widdecombe presents award to Ilfracombe as UK’s first courteous town in new business initiative

Ilfracombe in North Devon is the first town in the UK to complete a new programme run by the National Campaign for Courtesy to recognise businesses for their courtesy. The Right Honourable Ann Widdecombe presented the Mayor of Ilfracombe with a certificate marking this achievement after more than 100 businesses took part.

(from left) Lynda Courtnadge, Mayor of Ilfracombe, is presented with the courteous town certificate by the Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe, watched by Robert Zarywacz of the National Campaign for Courtesy
(from left) Lynda Courtnadge, Mayor of Ilfracombe, is presented with the courteous town certificate by the Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe, watched by Robert Zarywacz of the National Campaign for Courtesy

The 15-week pilot initiative – supported online at – recognised courteous businesses in the town after validation by customer testimonials and unsolicited nominations from members of the public. Shops, restaurants, cafés, pubs and hotels participated in the programme along with garages, accountants, builders and other sectors. A weekly theme focused on different aspects of courtesy and online materials supported participating businesses.

Following the success of this pilot, the National Campaign for Courtesy is receiving interest from other towns keen to run the initiative in their own areas.

Robert Zarywacz, who is courtesy consultant for the campaign and whose previous experience includes monitoring worldwide customer service at British Airways, says: “The courteous town initiative ensures we recognise what is good in business at a time when there is a tendency to focus on the negative. It provides a process for assessing courtesy, based on independent verification, which can be replicated in towns across the country to create a recognisable standard.

“Millions of people in the UK spend many hours each week at work or in business and a polite environment not only makes working life more enjoyable but plays a key role in increasing motivation and productivity. As well as making everyone feel better in their work, it can have important economic benefits, especially relevant when every business is looking to improve performance.”

Ann Widdecombe congratulated Ilfracombe on such a worthwhile initiative and said she was delighted to present the certificate at Ilfracombe Library on 8 June 2012.

Lynda Courtnadge, Mayor of Ilfracombe, said: “It was a great pleasure to receive the Courteous Town award, presented by the Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe, on behalf of Ilfracombe.

“Since moving to Ilfracombe 12 years ago, I have always appreciated the warmth and friendliness of local people, and so it was lovely to learn that we are the first town in the country to be awarded the Courteous Town Award, a national initiative promoted by the National Campaign for Courtesy.”

Robert Zarywacz continued: “The response in Ilfracombe has been phenomenal. When presenting certificates and window stickers to individual businesses, many have been overwhelmed that people have taken the time to nominate and thank them.

“It’s a powerful reminder that it takes only a moment and costs nothing to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, but it means so much when we do.

“The National Campaign for Courtesy would like to thank Ann Widdecombe, the Mayor and the businesses and members of the community who have participated in the courteous town initiative and who make Ilfracombe such a courteous place in which to live and work.”

See full details of the Ilfracombe courteous town initiative.

For details of the National Campaign for Courtesy, please visit

Towns line up to follow Ilfracombe and recognise courtesy

Today we’ve been presenting more certificates and window stickers to courteous businesses in Ilfracombe. We’re catching up and soon all will have been presented.

What next? In the next week or so we will have some really big news, so do look in.

In May, a presentation on the Ilfracombe courteous town initiative was given at the annual general meeting of the National Campaign for Courtesy. There is considerable excitement with several towns waiting to follow in Ilfracombe’s footsteps.

More soon . . .

More courteous businesses receiving certificates

We’ve presented more businesses with their certificates and window stickers and updated the listings page of courteous businesses in Ilfracombe.

Apologies for taking so long but there’s so much happening in the town at present. However, it’s important to present these to businesses in person. It’s worth the wait.

Watch out for big news in June!