The Youth Contract must be the beginning not the end

by Richard Darlington

Any day now, the Government will formally launch the new Youth Contact and from April, 160,000 job subsidies and an extra 20,000 apprenticeships will begin to come on stream to help young people who have been out of work for more than a year. The new scheme cannot come soon enough and it will fill the policy vacuum left by the abolition of the Future Jobs Fund, more than a year ago.

Since that decision was taken, youth unemployment has risen to the highest since records began in 1986/7.

Last month, the latest stats show that more than a million (1,042,000) young people (aged 16-24) are now unemployed, the second highest since comparable records began in 1992, and a rise of 67,600 in the last year.

Most worrying of all, there are now more than a quarter of a million 253,000 young people (aged 16-24) who have been unemployed for more than a year. There has been an increase of 24,900 over the last year in this group, that would have been helped had the Future Jobs Fund not been abolished.

But it is not just work, but training, where too many young people are losing out in record numbers. There are now a total of 958,000 young people (aged 16-24) who are NEET (not in education, employment or training), up 19,000 over the last year and a record high of 15.9 per cent for a fourth quarter.

Because the figures are not seasonally adjusted, the figure always peaks in quarter three and falls again in quarter four. But taking the average level over the calendar year shows that was over one million NEETs during 2011 for the first ever time.

The latest rise is a very steep jump since the General Election and formation of the coalition Government. The worse rises are in the East Midlands (up 26 per cent, 17,000 young people), the North West (up 18,000, a rise of 13 per cent) and Yorkshire & Humberside (up 17,000, a rise of 15 per cent).

Looking even more closely, and you can see the concentration of NEETs in towns and cities in the north, Wales and Scotland.

The Youth Contract is only part of the solution to the UK’s unemployment crisis and is not going to the issues caused by the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance. Resources are vital to tackling NEETs, as Barry Sherman’s education select committee showed in their excellent report at the end of the last Parliamentary session.

A more recent report from children’s charity Barnardos on the replacement to the EMA highlighted its inadequacy. The latest NEET figures covering the year since it was abolished do likewise.

Being NEET, is no fun at all. The Prince’s Trust show that young people who are NEETs are almost twice as likely as other young people to lack a sense of belonging in life. More than a third of unemployed young people (34 per cent) feel isolated all or most of the time, increasing to 45 per cent for those who have been out of work for a year or longer. Almost half of young people not in work (48 per cent) claim that unemployment has caused problems including self-harm, insomnia, self-loathing and panic attacks. Young people are twice as likely to self-harm or suffer panic attacks when they have been unemployed for a year.

IPPR research shows that apprenticeships – and vocational education more generally – play a key role in supporting young people’s transitions into work in many northern European countries where rates of youth unemployment in these countries are much lower than in Britain.

The Youth Contract on its own will not be enough. We need a job guarantee for everyone out of work for more than a year and more needs to be done to ensure that apprenticeships are available for young people.

Richard Darlington is head of news at IPPR and was Special Adviser at the Department for Education 2004-2005

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2 Responses to “The Youth Contract must be the beginning not the end”

  1. Nick says:

    Which bit of ‘there is no money left’ don’t you understand.

    You want more spending, but you aren’t prepared to state how you are going to pay off the 7,000 bn of government debt, or even the interest on it. (even that means no pensions for people). After all you are intending on paying the state pension?

    None of what you want can happen because the money isn’t there. It’s gone. It’s been pissed away.

    Just as Peter Watts admitted that Labour wasted vast sums in its electioneering, it wasted vast amounts of public money and run up massive debts that won’t be paid.

  2. Don Gately says:

    You’re right that the removal of the future jobs fund left a void but we shouldn’t think that the FJF was any sort of answer to long term youth unemployment

    the FJF was a fantastic proposal for helping those entering the employment market to get valuable experience and help them become competitive – it wasn’t a solution to the NEET problem as many just were not even ready to participate in the FJF scheme itself

    there are some structural issues with youth unemployment which had started to climb before the financial crisis and imho it’s linked to skills and aspirations which are lacking in too many areas. We attempted to regenerate many deprived areas through housing investment rather than skills investment and that’s left many (often northen heartland) deprived areas with weak skillbases and little chance of generating jobs in a more competitive environment. More importantly we never challenged the aspirations of many

    a replacement for FJF is vital but won’t nearly start to tackle the real structural problem we see in most local labour markets in former industrial areas. A job guarantee would be nice but again – if an individual lacks the basic tools and behaviours needed in the workplace they’re not going to be able to access that work guarantee.

    There are deep seated cultural issues that need tackling – cultural issues that are also linked to health equalities as well as educational ones that may need us to be more critical of community values in some areas. That will be uncomfortable because of the way we’ve let the tories park their bus on an issue that the old trade union movement would have seen as theirs. This may sound a bit like discredited blue labour but traditional working class values are lacking in many areas and too many labour members from the concerned middle classes are uncomfortable in challenging this and often pander. We could do with a labour movement that also saw a role in directly generating community development and enshrining key community values – that would start to tackle the NEET problem upstream

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