According to the Local Government Association (LGA), unemployed young people are losing faith in the prospect of finding jobs and feel national schemes are not offering them the right skills to help them into work. A poll of unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds, carried out by the Association, which represents more than
370 councils in England and Wales, exposes young people’s “growing frustration with an overly-complicated system awash with 35 different national schemes that fail to meet their needs”.
Nearly 60 per cent of young people surveyed felt there is not enough support with just 26 per cent believing the Government has the right approach to help young people find work. Half of the unemployed youngsters said they did not find key national services helpful with 46 per cent of these saying they are not given the right skills to find a job.
Young people are most frustrated by their experiences of Jobcentre Plus and skills training with 65 per cent of these saying this was because Jobcentre Plus did not tell them anything new, and almost a half found college training unhelpful by not giving them the right skills.
The results reveal a growing dissatisfaction among young people, with only 28 per cent out of work for more than six months feeling optimistic they would soon find a job. Long-term unemployed young people are the most dissatisfied with national services and were almost 60 per cent more likely to say they did not meet their personal needs. Over a million young people are disengaged from work and learning but beneath the headlines the number of long-term unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds has doubled since 2008.
The LGA said its latest research, being published as part of its ‘Rewiring Public Services’ campaign, proves the essential need for a new local approach to tackling long-term youth unemployment.
Cllr Peter Box (Labour, Wakefield Metropolitan District Council) Chairman of the LGA’s Economy and Transport Board, said:
“The evidence in this survey shows that nationally-driven attempts to tackle youth unemployment are not working for our hardest-to-reach young people. They firmly echo the frustration felt by councils who find their efforts to help them find jobs being hampered by a complex set of centralised schemes that fail to meet their needs or the demands of local employers.
“Government cannot be complacent: below the headline figures long-term youth unemployment is rising at a worrying rate for us all. For young people, being unemployed for long periods of time can have scarring effects that can last a lifetime, while having a huge impact on our economies and wider plans for growth.
“Councils are in a unique position to play a pivotal role in identifying young people that are likely to slip into periods of long-term unemployment. We desperately need to be given the powers to prevent this from happening and help equip future jobseekers with the skills, confidence and real-life experience they need to find work.”
In March, the LGA launched a new report, ‘Hidden Talents II’, which found that a new local approach to tackling youth unemployment could cut youth unemployment by 20 per cent in three years, save £1.25 billion a year to the taxpayer through savings in benefit payments and increases in tax and National Insurance contributions.
This would be achieved by councils and their partners being best-placed 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.
Local approaches can be twice as effective. Government’s flagship Youth Contract scheme only helped 27 per cent of participating 16 and 17-year-olds into a job or learning while in contrast devolved pilots of the scheme ran by local councils in Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield have helped 57 per cent of participants into work and learning. Cllr David Simmonds (Conservative, Hillingdon London Borough Council) Chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:
“We need to radically rethink how we help young people into work. Youth unemployment is a long-term structural issue needing a coherent long-term solution, but successive Governments have created a complex set of shifting services which are too remote and too poorly targeted to help individuals.
“While there are some good initiatives, too many encourage 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.
“Local government has stepped up with an offer to reduce youth disengagement by locally integrating services around young people furthest from work, and by matching training with the needs of local employers, but we need a new collaborative relationship with Government to make this happen.
“This could cut the number of unemployed people out of work by 20 per cent, save £1.25 billion to the taxpayer and pump £15 billion into the economy over 10 years. It is now time for the Government to give councils the power to deliver.”
The online survey questioned 1,000 people all aged between 16 and 24 and unemployed. 2. 6 per cent of surveyed youngsters had been unemployed for more than six months with 42 per cent out of work for more than a year.
The LGA’s report ‘Hidden Talents II’ (March 2013) calls for local authorities to:
- become default commissioners of all programmes seeking to get the most disengaged young people up to age 24 back into work, training and education.
- lead in setting local and sub-regional priorities for 16 to 24 skills provisions driven by employer demand in local labour markets.
- co-design, with Jobcentre Plus and Work Programme providers, joint packages and employment programmes for hardest to reach young people bringing together local and national programmes.
- commission wage subsidies announced as part of the Youth Contract, engaging small and medium enterprises and targeting young people with most to gain from public subsidies.
According to the LGA, it is estimated that each unemployed 18 to 24-year-old costs about £14,980 a year – £4,873 in benefits, £1,199 in lost tax and NI contributions and £8,998 to the economy in lost productivity.
The number of young people not in employment, full-time education or training (NEET) is 1.36 million, representing 18.5 per cent of the youth population. Around 260,000 of these are people who have been out of work for over a year, 100,000 have been out of work for over two years.