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Comprehensive support to tackle complex needs

Intervention approach

Problem statement

Addressed problem: Complex needs and challenges facing young people 

Often, education is only one of the challenges in young people’s lives. Some early leavers and learners at risk of early leaving have health, psychosocial, legal, or housing problems, among other issues.

Countries have different specialised services to assist citizens in such areas. Finding the right service, understanding the information provided, and applying for support measures, requires a certain amount of motivation and capacity from citizens. In the case of marginalised young people, it can be a big challenge. 

Marginalised young people tend to distrust any support coming from public authorities, and very rarely directly contact specialised services. However, any efforts towards their (re)engagement in education and training are likely to fail if not accompanied by measures to tackle issues in other spheres of their lives.


Case management aims at giving a tailor-made and comprehensive response to young people with complex needs. This approach is useful for all learners facing challenges in different areas of their lives, and particularly relevant for marginalised young people who have multiple problems and little contact with any support services.

Addressing the problem

What are the characteristics of effective case management? 

Case management involves working in parallel on the full range of challenges the person faces. The young person is in contact with only one professional (a ‘keyworker’ e.g. counsellor, coach or mentor) or a small multidisciplinary team under the same setting. These ‘case managers’ act as intermediaries and liaise with other services. They coordinate the responses so as to deliver tailor-made multifaceted support.

Case management and multi-faceted support is often a feature of second chance measures, namely of comprehensive measures for young people who are highly disengaged from education and training. It can also be used by mainstream education and training providers, or by support services for early leavers.

The following tips are given as advice to policy-makers and practitioners involved in the design and delivery of such measures. The information is based on Cedefop research into successful measures.

Tip 1: Build a trusting relationship between the young person and the keyworker (e.g. a counsellor, coach or mentor)

One-to-one contact and building a trusting relationship is at the core of case management. The development of such a relationship requires time and frequent contacts with the learner. The nature, frequency and length of contacts need to be tailored to the needs of the learner. Contacts should continue until there is a stabilisation of the personal situation of the young person. Support can be provided alongside formal learning and extended to after the learner has completed training.

Tip 2: Train the keyworker (e.g. a counsellor, coach or mentor)

Training is important for the keyworker (e.g. counsellor, coach or mentor) prior to starting to work with young people. This is particularly important for volunteer mentors, e.g. students, or volunteers from the community.

Tip 3: Establish cooperation channels with other relevant services and measures

The keyworker coordinates the different services needed to meet the learner’s individual needs. This involves cooperating with health services, social services, legal advisers, debt advisers, youth services, public employment services and other entities, as well as education and training providers. The use of formal protocols for the referral of young people can help to ensure that no young person ‘slips through the net’.

The fact that the keyworker is the one referring the young person to a certain service, when compared to someone who has limited contact with the learner, increases the chances that the visit actually takes place.

Expected outcomes

Outcomes of case management

Case management and multi-faceted support helps to tackle social, health, psychological, and economic challenges faced by young people. This should lead to an improvement in well-being. The development of a trusting relationship and individualised support help the young person’s self-esteem and self-confidence, and can help stimulate a positive attitude towards learning.

The following outcomes can be expected at different levels:

  • Social / health / psychological/economic challenges being tackled
  • Improved well-being
  • Development of a positive vision of oneself
  • Development of a positive attitude towards learning and education and training
  • Reduced risk of drop-out
  • Referral systems between schools, providers of second chance measures, and other services, are being used
  • Reduced risk of early leaving among students receiving support from a key worker (e.g. a counsellor, coach or mentor)
  • Inter-connected services are being used
  • Reduced rates of early leaving among at-risk students receiving support from a key worker (e.g. a counsellor, coach or mentor)
  • Increased rates of young people returning to mainstream education after receiving support from a key worker (e.g. a counsellor, coach or mentor)
  • Increased rates of young people attaining an upper secondary qualification after receiving support from a key worker (e.g. a counsellor, coach or mentor)

Related protective factors

Related resources