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Youth Unemployment

Volume 497: debated on Monday 19 October 2009

Is my right hon. Friend aware of an organisation in Blackpool called Progress Recruitment, which, by working with Jobcentre Plus and the Connexions service, is helping young people with disability to get into work? One of its many successes is Rachel Lambert, who at just 17 and with severe physical disabilities has been helped into self-employment, now has her own business and is supported by further training at the Blackpool sixth-form college. The entrepreneurial can-do spirit applies to young people, and, whether they have disabilities or not, that is an option for them.

My hon. Friend is right, and we must ensure that we also help young people who have different disabilities and need additional help with different ways into work. She may also be interested to know that the proportion of disabled people in work has increased by about 7 per cent. to more than 50 per cent. in the past eight years, so for the first time there are more disabled people of working age in work than there are out of work—precisely because of the kind of programme that my hon. Friend talks about.

Is the Secretary of State aware that 947,000 young people between 16 and 24 years old are unemployed, of whom 500,000 claim jobseeker’s allowance? Some 38 per cent. of all unemployed claimants are young people, and the young unemployed of today are likely to be the long-term unemployed of tomorrow. Does she not agree that we need radical action to tackle youth unemployment? What are the Government doing to tackle it?

The hon. Gentleman is right to point to the fact that young people are affected by the recession. I think that he refers to the International Labour Organisation figures for 16 to 24-year-olds, which include more than 250,000 young people who are in full-time education and also say that they are looking for work. It is right that we provide a range of support from the very moment that young people become unemployed. So far, our work is preventing the long-term youth unemployment of previous decades, so about 10,000 young people are on the long-term claimant count, compared with 200,000 in previous decades.

Has the Secretary of State yet had the opportunity to consider the report published by the Federation of Small Businesses last week—“Small Businesses, Big Employers”—in which it makes the point that some 69 per cent. of apprentices are employed in small businesses but only 5 per cent. of small businesses are aware of the full range of help that is available to them for apprentices? What is she going to do about that?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. That is exactly why we announced only this year that we wanted to work with the Federation of Small Businesses so that it could take on not only more apprenticeships but more internships, particularly for graduate interns, who can often provide additional support for small businesses. Internships are also a great opportunity for young graduates to get their first bit of work experience. That is how they can benefit small businesses and young people. We are looking at ways to increase the support in jobcentres for small businesses to do exactly that.