Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to report on the challenges and approaches taken to address the issue of NEETs in North East England. The area around Redcar in East Cleveland has high levels of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment. This paper compared actions taken in England in the support offered to disaffected youth and reports on the strategy pursued in East Cleveland. Design/methodology/approach – The research was primarily desk-based, interrogating Government publications as well as that generated by executive agencies and local educational institutions. A number of key figures were surveyed in addition to obtain a grounded insight into the challenges that confront those who work in this area. Findings – This study identified areas of good practice that could be considered elsewhere. Its conclusions emphasise that solutions to the NEETs problem are to be found in bespoke and individually focused programmes that value the contribution of young people to society and aim to build their self-esteem and confidence. It also highlights the importance of inter-agency cooperation and joined up strategic planning. Research limitations/implications – This study would have benefited from the opportunity to survey the views of young people involved in support programmes. Given issues of confidentiality, this was not possible. Originality/value – This study adds to the literature generated by Government bodies and educational institutions on the issue of disaffected youth. Its value lies in its reference to a specific geographic area and its insight into the work of local professionals in tackling this complex social issue.