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Youth Unemployment

Volume 502: debated on Monday 7 December 2009

1. What assessment she has made of the causes of the change in the level of youth unemployment in the last 12 months. (304061)

Young people have been particularly heavily affected by the impact of the global financial crisis and the recession. Many employers have chosen to delay new recruitment, which is why the £5 billion investment that we have put in place to help the unemployed includes a £1 billion future jobs fund as well as extra training and support for young people across the country.

I thank the Secretary of State for her reply. She will be aware that many people who are not graduates also need help and support in finding employment. What measures are the Government taking to ensure that those without degrees are given as much help and support as those who have left university?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point because we need to help young people, whatever their circumstances or their level of qualifications, to be able to get into work as rapidly as possible. Currently, more than half of young people are managing to leave the claimant count new jobseeker’s allowance within three months, so a lot of people are getting help. As well as support for graduates, particularly through internships, we are providing additional help for young people through additional training places, the September guarantee, and the young person’s guarantee that no young person should become long-term unemployed. The future jobs fund is also providing youth jobs in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, and I hope that his party will change its policy and support it, as it is making a difference to young people.

Will the Secretary of State place in the Library information on the breakdown by educational qualification of those who are young and unemployed? That would show just how important the Government’s education reforms are in supporting a safe move from school into work.

I am certainly happy to make sure that that information is available. My right hon. Friend is right that those with lower qualifications and skills are at higher risk not just of unemployment generally but of becoming long-term unemployed. That is why it is important not only to raise the education-leaving age so that more young people stay on in education, but to provide the guarantee that young people do not end up stuck on the dole for the long term. The £5 billion investment to support that is also important.

In the last Department for Work and Pensions questions on 19 October, as reported in Hansard at column 620, I effectively asked the Government to adopt our proposal to give the young unemployed specialist help through welfare-to-work providers after six months. The Secretary of State dismissed this, but yesterday in The Sunday Telegraph, it was reported that the Government were going to change the young person’s guarantee so that in future it will kick in at six months. That is not enough, but will the Secretary of State now admit that she got it wrong and we got it right?

Let us be clear of the consequence of the programme we have already put in place. Youth unemployment figures for the right hon. Lady’s constituency show 2,200 young people on the dole at the moment compared with 4,300 in December 1992—half the level it was in the early 1990s. I would also point out that the investment we have put in place not only provides support at six months but provides it from day one of unemployment—from the very beginning when young people lose their job and need to find work. We are investing to deliver the young person’s guarantee with £5 billion of additional investment. Her party opposes that and she also opposes the young person’s guarantee that we want to bring forward. She has opposed it because she cannot support the investment to guarantee jobs and training for young people.

The Secretary of State is always keen to contrast the performance of the last Conservative Government and this Labour Government with selective figures, so I will give her a contrast. In the last five years of the last Conservative Government, youth unemployment fell by 251,000. In the five years of this Labour Government before the recession began, youth unemployment rose by 129,000. We will give earlier help through welfare-to-work providers and create hundreds of thousands of new apprenticeships, training places, places at further education colleges and work pairings. Is not the clear contrast the one between a Conservative party that has policies to help young people and a Labour Government who have let them down?

What utter and complete nonsense! The right hon. Lady will not guarantee young people a job or training or real-work opportunities for young people right now, and she will not fund the additional investment of £5 billion to help young people right now. As long as Conservative Members oppose the £5 billion investment, they cannot back our young person’s guarantee and the extra help. I have to say to her again that the 18 to 24-year-olds claimant count is 462,000 right now; in the early ’90s it was 784,000; in the mid-80s it was 980,000. This investment helps young people through the recession rather than abandoning them like the Conservatives did time and again in previous recessions and want to do again now because they want to cut the investment and support that is aimed at giving those young people a chance.

May I bring to the attention of my right hon. Friend the report from my constituency, “Northampton Young People and the Recession”? Will she say how she is going to meet one of the challenges mentioned in it—providing targeted help for young people who have quite complex needs and making sure that they get support with social issues as well as training to get them back into the job market as quickly as possible?

My hon. Friend is right. People, especially those with complex needs, need individual support to deal with particular circumstances. She will know that the future jobs fund is providing real job opportunities for young people. The Conservatives have said that they would abolish it, but I know that it is already making a difference in her part of the world. We want to expand on that to provide additional help for, in particular, those with the greatest needs, who might otherwise be at the greatest risk of long-term unemployment.