I know many readers of The Lincolnite are concerned about youth unemployment. I believe reducing the number of unemployed young people is absolutely imperative. While I am pleased there has been a steady fall in the number of 18-24 year olds in Lincoln claiming Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) over the last year, times are challenging and youth unemployment has been rising steadily even over the last 14 years.
I think it is disgraceful that there was a 42% rise in youth unemployment under the previous Labour Government during their 13 years in power.
Unemployment amongst our young people remains much too high, but the latest set of employment statistics does provide some encouraging news. For the third successive month the figures showed a fall in youth unemployment. Excluding full-time students, there are 626,000 unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds, the lowest figure since early 2009.
However, the government shares my desire to reduce youth unemployment and has already implemented a variety of initiatives to help young people get into work, notably the £1bn Youth Contract that builds on existing support programmes already in place.
The Youth Contract gives young people aged 18-24 access to extra help at Job Centre Plus, it also expands the number of work experience placements available for young people and guarantees every young person a job interview through Sector based Work Academies if they want one.
In addition to this, it also provides subsidies of up to £2,275 to British businesses to take on up to 160,000 apprentices. This is more than enough to cover an employer’s National Insurance contributions for one year and is also more than the CBI recommended in their recent report on youth unemployment.
While naturally we want young people in paid work, one of the key barriers preventing employers giving young people a job is their lack of work or office experience. By giving young people the opportunity to obtain real work experience, the government has found that 50 per cent of 18-25 year olds move off benefits within three months of completing a placement.
Therefore I think it is absolutely right that we expand successful welfare programmes that help our young people find employment. I believe this is a strong programme of action that demonstrates this, and my, Government’s commitment to helping young people find employment.