Belfast Telegraph

Stormont left to implement Treasury's jobless youth scheme

Government guarantees of jobs or training for all 18-24-year- olds out of work for six months will not automatically extend to Northern Ireland, it has been confirmed.

Alistair Darling yesterday pledged that, for the next two years, no-one under the age of 24 will need to be unemployed for longer than six months before being offered work or training in a bid to tackle youth unemployment. However, a spokesman for the Treasury said while it was a UK-wide scheme, employment is a devolved matter falling under the remit of Northern Ireland's Department of Employment and Learning.

The Chancellor cited the fall in the UK's unemployment rate during his Budget speech as reason for optimism about levels of government borrowing and economic growth. Nearly four million people have been helped out of unemployment in the last year, he said, adding the claimant count was lower than when Labour came to power in 1997.

However, Northern Ireland was the only UK region to experience a monthly rise in unemployment in February, pushing the claimant count to 55,700.

Figures showed youth unemployment rose again in February in Northern Ireland and there are now 18,000 individuals under the age of 25 claiming unemployment benefit. That means over 100 have been signing on the unemployment register every week for the last 27 months.