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East Ham MP Stephen Timms wants more done for young jobless

PUBLISHED: 09:54 06 August 2014 | UPDATED: 09:54 06 August 2014

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We still have more than 800,000 young people unemployed in the UK and a rate of youth unemployment almost three times the overall rate. Yet it emerged last week that the government's flagship youth unemployment initiative has been scrapped. What is going on?

The Youth Contract was devised when Nick Clegg told the Cabinet something must be done about sky-high youth unemployment. It began in April 2012. One of the things it offered was a wage incentive of just over £2,000 for employers recruiting an unemployed young person.

Now a letter sent out by the Department for Work and Pensions on July 18 has emerged and it states “the last employment start date for which an incentive can be claimed is August 6, 2014”.

The initiative was unfortunately ill-conceived from the start. It wasn’t promoted properly so most employers didn’t know about it. Employers who heard of it found it confusing. “Employers shun youth contract” reported the Recruitment and Employment Confederation in June last year. The manufacturers’ trade organisation, the EEF, ran a survey of 200 of their members in July last year and found only one of them using it.

The Youth Contract budget allowed for wage incentives to be paid for 160,000 people over three years. Data for the first half of that period showed they had been paid only for about 10,000 people. It was a complete flop. And now ministers have given it up altogether.

What we need is a united national effort to end the blight of large-scale youth unemployment. Many employers would gladly support it if – like Labour’s New Deal in 1997 – it was properly designed and promoted. And delivering that effort – with the introduction of the Compulsory Job Guarantee – will be a top priority if Labour wins the General Election next year. More from Stephen Timms.

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