Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Youth job schemes hit by 'meddling'

Interference from consecutive governments is harming schemes aimed at helping young people find work, a report claims

Schemes aimed at helping young people find work are being hit by "continued meddling" from governments, leading to a fall in help for the unemployed, according to a new report.

Local government leaders said almost 50,000 fewer young people were benefiting from national job schemes than three years ago, even though youth unemployment remained "stubbornly high" at almost a million. A report by the Local Government Association said there had been an 8% fall in the number of young people in England starting one of the 35 job schemes last year.

Meddling by consecutive governments had a "negative impact" on the schemes, warned the association, adding that the current system to tackle youth unemployment was not working because it was "overly complicated", covering 13 different age ranges at a cost of £15 billion a year. The complexity of schemes and the way the Government published statistics made it impossible to view how effective they are, said the LGA. Schemes run by councils were more successful, according to the report.

David Simmonds, who chairs the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said: "With young people returning to school in a few weeks now having to stay in education or training until they are 17 years old, it's even more important that we are offering them meaningful training and employment schemes that will provide the very best opportunities for them to get into the local jobs market.

"It's clear that nationally-driven attempts to tackle youth unemployment aren't working. While there are a number of good initiatives, Government has sidelined councils and incentivised a series of services like schools, colleges and third sector providers to work in isolation of each other, with no clarity on who is responsible for leading the offer to young people on the ground.

"We know the level of success that local organisations, such as councils, businesses and education providers, can achieve when working together, but this is being hampered by successive centrally-driven Ggovernment approaches. This has long been a major frustration for councils, who are in the unique position of knowing the young people in their area and the skills and training required by the local jobs market.

"We would now urge Government to give local authorities and their partners the powers to 'own the problem' and become the link between young people and local employers.

"By introducing a local approach to addressing youth unemployment, councils and their partners will be better able to spot and offer early help to young people struggling at school, train young people in skills to take local jobs in local labour markets, help improve the performance of the Work Programme for the hardest to reach, and target job subsidies to local businesses offering the best opportunities for young people."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "Youth unemployment has been a big challenge for a decade but has fallen by 38,000 since last year, and the number of young people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance has fallen for 14 consecutive months.

"We're not complacent about the challenge in tackling this problem and through Jobcentre Plus we're already working locally with businesses and councils to help young people into work. Our Youth Contract will help nearly 500,000 young people over the next three years. This autumn we will launch a new traineeship programme which will help those who do not have the right experience or qualifications to get an apprenticeship or find a job."

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