As a result of our successful policies, youth claimant unemployment is at a historic low. The New Deal for Young People has helped to virtually eradicate youth long-term claimant unemployment, with the numbers of young job seekers unemployed for a year or more down from 91,000 in March 1997 to 5,900 in March 2008.
The Department for Work and Pensions is working closely with the Department for Children, Schools and Families to support young people to make the transition from education and training into work and to engage with 18-year-olds with a previous history of being not in education, employment or training. From April this year 18-year-olds with any past history of being not in education, employment or training can, by agreement with their personal adviser, be fast tracked on a voluntary basis to the Gateway stage of the New Deal for Young People.
From April 2009, we will take this approach further by making fast tracking to the more intensive, adviser-led support stage of the flexible New Deal mandatory for 18-year-olds who have spent at least six months not in education, employment or training. The flexible New Deal and refreshed Jobseeker's Allowance programme will be a key element in a welfare system in which, increasingly, claimants are not passive recipients of benefits, but instead active job seekers preparing for a return to work in which they will be better off.