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Employment (Young People)

Volume 587: debated on Monday 3 November 2014

In the past 12 months, youth unemployment has fallen by a record-breaking 253,000. This Government have developed an array of support for young people including: work experience, sector-based work academies, traineeships, the Work programme and increasing apprenticeship numbers.

I thank the Minister for her answer. Youth unemployment in my constituency has halved since 2012. I recently visited my local Asda in Colne to see the work it is doing with local jobcentres. What more can my right hon. Friend offer to end youth unemployment in Pendle?

My hon. Friend is doing a lot locally to help people into work. He has had three job fairs so far, and is soon to have a fourth. It is by working with business, as he is doing in his constituency and we are doing nationally, that we have businesses and trade associations engaged in running programmes such as movement to work and feeding Britain’s future. All such initiatives are giving young people opportunities to move into work. We are not complacent, and recognise that there is more we can do. We are looking to create an extra 3 million apprenticeships in the next Parliament to ensure that we have full employment for young people.

The Minister sounds so plausible and she has oh so many skills learned in the television trade, but she should pick up the Local Government Association report that said that so many young people in this country are being badly served and that there will be 2 million of them unemployed or under-employed in the next few years because the model that we have for helping young people is not fit for purpose and that after four and a half years she has done very little about it.

It would have been better had the hon. Gentleman stopped after his first sentence. Not only am I plausible—I was giving the true statistics. Let us be honest: it was the Opposition who said that unemployment would be up by a million at this stage. How wrong they were. [Interruption.] We have unemployment up by 2 million. [Interruption.] Sorry, the Opposition said that it would be down by a million. Employment levels are at a record high: more than 30.7 million people are now in work, putting the figures on a par with pre-recession rates.

The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but rather than living on planet fantasy I ask him to look at the facts.

Youth unemployment in the Ribble Valley is relatively low. One of our great facilities, the jobcentre in Clitheroe, is currently under review and the suggestion is that it should close. Does the Minister accept that young people in rural areas have to travel large distances to get to a jobcentre? As these jobcentres are important, they should not be told to get on a bus to Blackburn.

My hon. Friend is right that jobcentres are important. The question is how we best support jobcentres and claimants. Can young people in rural areas make their claim on the phone or online, and can we align various other organisations so that they can come together and help support people in a fully rounded way? Obviously, what we are doing is right, because, as he says, in his area employment is up and unemployment is down.

The Minister budgeted for 160,000 young people to complete the Youth Contract wage incentive payments. When the Department pulled the plug on that scheme, fewer than 10,000 young people had actually completed the 26 weeks on the programme. Will she tell the House what went wrong?

What I will do is tell the House what went right, as that is what people want to know. We have a record number of young people in work. We had a £1 billion Youth Contract, within which was an array of different opportunities—work experience, sector-based work academies and wage incentives. Working with businesses, we found that work experience, sector-based work academies and apprenticeships were the things that they want, and they are the ones offering the jobs. We have seen 40,000 young people—not 10,000 young people—start in that way. We have redeployed the money from the Youth Contract to areas where it will be most effective. The situation is far from what the hon. Gentleman outlined, as what we are doing is working.