Page last updated at 12:03 GMT, Thursday, 12 November 2009

Some young jobless 'like vampires'

Sir Reg accused some young people of behaving like vampires

It may be time to sharpen those stakes and crack out the garlic after a warning about the existence of vampires in Northern Ireland.

Employment Minister Sir Reg Empey has used the term to describe some young people he believes are not interested in work or training.

"Some of them are what we call the vampires," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"They get up at three o'clock in the afternoon and are then up all night."

The Ulster Unionist leader was discussing 16 to 24-year-olds classified as NEETS (Not in employment, education or training).

He said those he compared to vampires "could be the typical young person we see out in the streets - no job, no ambition and no self-esteem and getting into difficulties and at the mercy of paramilitaries".

He said some of the 'NEETS' were happy to live off their parents' money rather than earning their own.

"Others may be at home all day watching TV with mummy," he said.

"They may not be out on the streets but they are unanchored and may be just sitting things out if their parents have money."

Sir Reg said his department ran several schemes to help young people access training, such as the Learner Access and Engagement Programme.

The Alliance Party has called the minister's comments a "disgrace" and said he should apologise for them.

Its youth chair Conrad Dickson said: "This was obviously Sir Reg's attempt to look tough but it has backfired and embarrassed him.

"It's OK for him to sit in his ministerial ivory tower and hurl insults at young people, but he does not understand the realities of what it is like to leave education, only to face months or years of looking for a job."

Barnardo's has warned the number of young people out of employment or training represented a serious problem.

Margaret Kelly of the children's charity told the Belfast Telegraph: "The growing numbers of these young people in Northern Ireland mean we face a risk of a lost generation."

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