Heading for a generation of Neets in the North East

by Roberta Blackman-Woods

Last week the chancellor delivered his autumn statement which offered very little to stimulate growth and create employment opportunities for areas of high youth unemployment. Last month figures revealed that youth unemployment has for the first time topped one million in this country and in the North East the situation is extremely troubling.

The government scrapped Labour’s future jobs fund which created over 100,000 jobs for young people. Youth unemployment is now reaching crisis levels, having shot up by 77% this year alone. There are now fewer people moving from benefits into work than at any time since 1998 which the chancellor’s statement fails to address at all.

Whoever the government tries to blame, the fact is Britain’s economic recovery was choked off a year ago and unemployment started rising again well before the recent eurozone crisis. We know this because unemployment rates are time lagged.

I recently attended a breakfast in my constituency hosted by the education company NISAI which was all about Neets. Representatives of the company, academics and youth workers all spoke at the breakfast alongside myself on these young people’s plight which costs the British economy £32 billion a year.

The latest department of education figures published on the 25th August 2011 revealed that from April to June this year there were 979,000 16- to 24-year-olds were classified as Neet, 54,000 more than the previous three months and up 109,000 more than the same quarter the previous year. This is the largest rise since 2000 when the figures were first compiled.

According to the 2010 audit commission report “Against the odds”, Neets have poorer life chances than their peers and are more likely to be a long-term cost to the public purse. Young men who are classified as Neets are also three times more likely to suffer from depression, and five times more likely to have a criminal record, than their peers.

Dalia Ben-Galim, associate director institute for public policy research concluded:

“These figures confirm that the government is not doing enough to support young people. While the planned expansion of apprenticeships is welcome, it is clearly not enough and the government needs to provide more places in further education colleges and a job guarantee for every young person out of work for more than a year”.

I came away from the breakfast glad that there are organisations trying to tackle this problem, but worried that we are facing another lost generation in the North East like we did in the 1980s.

On top of this, a mixture of large increases in unemployment and economic inactivity rates, marked falls in house prices, and significant increases in personal insolvencies have all contributed to the increasing North/South divide according to a recent report by economists at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The report even warned that “The North-East will continue to suffer some of the worst effects of the spending cuts”. Meanwhile the South-East is expected to grow most strongly this year, with London enjoying the strongest earnings growth, the steadiest house prices and one of the lowest increases in personal insolvencies.

Labour’s five point plan for job and growth would get the North East moving again. We know for example that Labour’s youth jobs fund, paid for by a tax on banker’s bonuses, could get 5,500 young people back into work in the North East.

The government’s half measures to get people back into employment are just not working. We need to get people back to work and off benefits, or the scar of unemployment will do long term damage. Whilst it is important that our deficit is reduced, doing so without a growth plan, at the expense of struggling families and youth employment, is not the right route. At the moment we are stuck in a vicious cycle, with more people on benefits and out of work the deficit is harder to get down.

Roberta Blackman-Woods is the MP for Durham City and is shadow minister for planning

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2 Responses to “Heading for a generation of Neets in the North East”

  1. Nick says:

    What’s missing?

    Ah yes – schooling.

    They have been failed by their schooling since they have come out of 14 years of education as non functioning adults. Without the skills to make their way in the world.

    Quite why 100,000 pounds educating them should have produced such a mess is beyond me.

  2. swatantra says:

    I hate to mention it but up North isn’t ‘neets’ the word for offal.
    Post war education has been failing our youth ever since highlighted in ‘Half or Future’ and it hasn’t changed one bit.
    We need technical schools, and trade skills being taught and a work ethic instilled into every child. This laiszez faire and namby pamby approach has to stop, because that is at the root of the problem

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