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Youth Contract Wage Incentives

Volume 570: debated on Monday 18 November 2013

6. What progress he has made on delivering his target of 160,000 Youth Contract wage incentives by April 2015; and if he will make a statement. (901073)

13. What progress he has made on delivering his target of 160,000 Youth Contract wage incentives by April 2015; and if he will make a statement. (901080)

There were more than 21,000 wage incentive job starts up to May 2013. The next wage incentive statistics are due to be released early in the new year.

As the Secretary of State is well aware, in the first 14 months of this programme his Department delivered less than 3% of what he promised. Together with the appalling underperformance of the Work programme, and with Ministers and civil servants at each other’s throats over the chaotic introduction of universal credit, is this not yet another example of how this Secretary of State promises much but delivers little?

I am quite sure that what the hon. Gentleman was reading out was a piece of fiction and I would like to give him the correct figures. The Youth Contract is made up of many component parts. One is wage incentives, and there is a wage incentive for apprenticeships, and another is for work experience. Of the 113,000 people who went on work experience, 50% have a job, and 21,000 have wage incentives, and that figure is rising by 4,000 a month. Youth unemployment has fallen for 17 consecutive months. In the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, it has fallen 35% in the last year. Perhaps he wants to congratulate us on that.

I do not congratulate the Government on the level of youth unemployment in my constituency; there are 900 unemployed young people in my constituency and almost 1 million nationally. The system of wage incentives is clearly not working, because the numbers are appallingly low for constituencies such as mine. Is not it time that Ministers stopped being in denial and started doing something radical to help young people back to work?

I would just like to mention Labour’s record: a 40% increase in youth unemployment. What we have done, as I have said, has seen youth unemployment fall for 17 consecutive months. It is now lower than it was at the general election.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that since the Youth Contract was launched in April 2012 youth unemployment has fallen by more than 59,000 and that the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance has been dropping for 17 consecutive months?

I totally agree with my hon. Friend. Just so that we can hear it again, even though I have said it twice and he has said it once, youth unemployment has fallen for 17 consecutive months.

Will the Minister tell the House how the Youth Contract performs in terms of value for money and effectiveness compared with the future jobs fund?

The future jobs fund cost £6,500 per outcome, whereas our work experience outcomes cost £325, which is a 20th of the price for exactly the same outcomes. As always, the coalition Government are delivering value for money.

After more than two years of the Work programme and 18 months of the embarrassing flop of Youth Contract wage incentives, youth unemployment is still nearly 1 million, higher than it was at the general election and higher than when the Work programme began. That is terrible not only for young people, but for the future of the economy. When will Ministers finally get serious about that and back a proper youth jobs guarantee?

Obviously the Opposition like to rewrite history. The 40% increase in youth unemployment that we saw over their years in office was shocking, particularly given that it was during a boom period. We are dealing with the issue most practically. The Youth Contract has been, is and will be a huge success, with wage contracts increasing from a slow start of 1,000 a month to 4,000-plus a month.