In today's uncertain times, this is an important question for us, as a legislative Assembly, to consider.
My Department provides a range of support to young people who are not in employment, education or training, often referred to as "NEET". My Department administers the Northern Ireland European social fund (ESF) programme, which includes 18 NEET projects with a value of over £33 million. The projects are specifically designed to support young people. Examples of the projects are wide-ranging across Northern Ireland. We have Bryson Charitable Group, Extern, GEMS, Include Youth, Job Directions, the South West College, Springboard, Stepping Stones NI, the Prince's Trust, Training for Women and YouthAction Northern Ireland, so it is really a very wide range of programmes that are supported through this part of my Department.
The Department for the Economy is also the Northern Ireland accountable Department for Peace4Youth, which aims to engage 7,400 young people who are disadvantaged, marginalised and not readily engaging with other programmes. The Careers Service provides all-age, all-ability careers guidance, with a priority focus on helping those vulnerable to social exclusion. Inevitably, the response to COVID-19 and the lockdown, in particular, has made it more difficult to deliver those vital services. However, the services and projects have adapted to continue to provide much-needed support throughout the crisis. In March, Peace4Youth projects swiftly moved to online delivery to continue to support young people. ESF projects also moved to remote working. Some are now back working in their usual premises, where social distancing allows. Since March, the Careers Service has made over 49,000 contacts with 16- to 18-year-olds to guide them in taking the next steps in their education, training or employment.