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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Main parties clash over youth unemployment

David Cameron has already committed to the next Conservative Government to abolishing Job Seeker’s Allowance for 18-21 year olds and replacing it with a Youth Allowance, time-limited to six months, after which claimants are required to undertake an apprenticeship or daily community work for their benefits. 

Today he says he wants to go further, ensuring that any 18-21 year old who has been ‘NEET’ (Not in Education, Employment or Training) for six months prior to claiming benefits will be required to do community work right from the start of their claim.

The Community Work Programme, which can include making meals for older people or working for local charities, typically involves 30 hours a week of a week for three months plus 10 hours of job search activity a week. There are currently around 50,000 new claims a year from 18-21 year olds who have been NEET, around 10pc of all claims.

The Conservatives say that Community Work Placements have been shown to be more effective in moving claimants off benefits than the normal Jobcentre Plus signing on regime, and one pilot in London specifically with day one work requirements proved even more so. At current volumes the policy would cost around £20m to deliver, paid for from the initial savings generated by the roll out of Universal Credit.

Commenting the Prime Minister, David Cameron, said: "Our welfare reforms are a key part of our long-term economic plan. They are not just about saving money. They are about changing lives and making this a country that rewards work and gives everyone the chance of a better future. That is why we are taking further steps to help young people make something of their lives. Our goal in the next Parliament is effectively to abolish long-term youth unemployment. We want to get rid of that well-worn path from the school gate, down to the Job Centre, and onto a life on benefits.

Mr Cameron continued: "For those 18-21 year-olds who have not been in employment, training or education for six months before they sign on, we are going to take intensive action. What these young people need is work experience and the order and discipline of turning up for work each day. So a Conservative government would require them to do daily community work from the very start of their claim, as well as searching for work. From day one they must realise that welfare is not a one-way street. Yes, we will help them, but there is no more something for nothing. They must give back to their community too."

Responding to David Cameron’s speech, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Rachel Reeves, said: "With youth unemployment rising, not falling, the government should introduce Labour’s compulsory jobs guarantee to get young people off benefits and into paid work. Under David Cameron young people can spend years claiming benefit without being offered and required to take up paid work. Labour's compulsory jobs guarantee would ensure young people are given the chance to learn, earn and contribute.”

"The choice we face in May is clear. A Tory failing plan which has abandoned thousands of young people or Labour’s plan to get young jobseekers back to work." Ms Reeves added

Also responding to Mr Cameron's speech the Liberal Democrats say that the Conservatives would make unemployed young people work 30 hours a week doing things like cleaning war memorials or working in parks. These placements are not designed to help people into work, more to punish. Just like the Conservative plans to axe housing benefit for young people, it's all stick and no carrot. The Lib Dems sat that young people should be given help and support into the work place, help at job centres and the opportunity to get on in life. The party says we should not write young people off as feckless and lazy.

A Lib Dem spokesman commented "We must make sure young people leave school with the skills they need to succeed. That is why Liberal Democrats will protect education spending. The Conservatives' plans to slash the education budget will reduce the prospects of thousands of young people."