Budget brings promise of support for unemployed young people – but help is needed now
Today’s unemployment figures (providing data from December 08 – February 09) are bleak. They show that by the end of February there were 2,100,000 unemployed people by the ILO measure, and the unemployment rate was 6.7 per cent. Young people’s unemployment rates are far higher than those for other age groups – among 18-24 year olds the rate is 15.1 per cent. Between December 2008 – February 2009 631,000 young people were unemployed and 111,000 young people (17.6 per cent of all unemployed young people) had been unemployed for over 12 months.
In his Budget speech the Chancellor announced the Government’s plans to introduce an employment programme for 200,000 long-term unemployed young people from 2010. We welcome this support, which is urgently needed and closely resembles our own calls for a new scheme to create jobs for the long-term unemployed. But it needs to happen now – waiting until the beginning of next year will mean that 100,000 young people may already have been out of work for 24 months before they can access this help.
The specifics of the £2 billion Government scheme are set out in the Budget Report (page 96). The Government will guarantee everyone aged between 18 and 24 who has been claiming JSA for 12 months a job, work placement or work-related skills training for at least six months. Local authorities and private sector employers will be funded to provide jobs paid at least the national minimum wage in tasks of benefit to the community such as environmental improvements and social care. This will involve: funding for Care First, offering 50,000 traineeships for young people in the care sector; funding for local authorities and partners to take forward the creation of 100,000 new jobs in socially useful activity; allocation of additional funding for local authorities to provide a further 50,000 jobs in areas of high unemployment across the country.
The TUC’s budget submission proposed a £2 billion intermediate labour market programme for long-term unemployed people, with participants paid at least the national minimum wage for work on projects of value to their local communities. We did not propose limiting this programme to any one age group. However, since we announced our proposals it has become much clearer that young people are being especially hard-hit by the recession. We believe the Government is right to concentrate this support on that particular group.
But the scheme needs to start sooner. It is unlikely that most of the very currently long-term unemployed young people will get jobs over the next year, so by the time the programme is introduced 100,000 young people could already have spent two years out of work. The TUC believes that 50,000 places could be created within six months in the towns and London Boroughs with the highest levels of long-term unemployment. To help those who are already long-term unemployed, support needs to be made available immediately.