Monday, 9 August 2010

Link to Labour Uncut Article 9.8.10

Read my article on the threat of Youth Unemployment

The recent media circus surrounding the Raoul Moat case did lead to some interesting discussion about the ‘lost generation’ of working class men who have lost their standing in society as a result of the steady decline in manufacturing since the 1980s.
Numerous commentators discussed fathers and their sons who have spent much of their lives on benefits and with little or no expectation of finding work. This is an issue across the UK, though one more noticeable in the former industrial heartlands of the North, and especially former mining towns that experienced mass unemployment after the pit closures of the Thatcher years.

In the vast majority of these towns, little or no thought was given to the effects of long term unemployment on successive generations, or to the very working of these communities. Small business closures, divorce rates, crime and drug and alcohol addiction all increased in these areas.
As the new coalition continues to talk only of cuts and directing them almost exclusively at the poor, we fear that Cameron will be repeating the mistakes of Margaret Thatcher at her most vile in ignoring the social group which is most likely to suffer in the next five years.
The combination of public service job cuts, a reduction in university places, the abolition of the future jobs fund all point to a bleak future for today’s youth. This is a real life consequence of Osborne’s inflexibility when pushing for spending cuts above and beyond any reasoning. What practical solutions are being offered? None.
To top it off, the Connexions youth careers service has started to downsize as a result of pressure on local government to make spending cuts. This service, which has encountered criticism in the past, does however operate in a vital space dealing with young people not in education, employment or training (‘NEETs’), and there is radio silence from the government in terms of what alternative service will be offered, just when it is needed most.
Last year the Prince’s trust conducted a survey of 2000 young people, which found that the young unemployed were more likely to feel ashamed, rejected, lost, anxious, insecure, down and depressed, isolated and unloved. Many reported having suicidal thoughts. The long term implications of rising youth unemployment are frightening, especially as this recession is affecting graduates as well as school leavers, many of whom are bringing with them the new social burden of huge student debt.
The government owes it to the electorate to offer some hope and practical solution to our young people. It is simply not acceptable to dismantle the structure that has been built to ensure we never return to such horrific youth unemployment as we experienced in the 1980s when over one million youths were registered unemployed – not to mention the two million plus who were not in education or training, causing tension and unrest in Britain’s inner cities.
In 2009, in the middle of the latest recession, the figure approached three-quarters of a million. But the Labour government’s future jobs fund, largely funded by the one-off bankers’ bonus tax, had positive results, with many young people having their 6 month placements extended. The scrapping of this successful scheme points to the short-sightedness of the coalition and the distinct absence of positivity or creativity in Osborne’s fiscal policy.
A new government should be coming to power with ideas and determination to enhance opportunities for youth, not limit them. According to Martina Milburn, chief executive of the Prince’s trust, youth unemployment costs the economy £10m a day in lost productivity. We need action, an emphasis on vocational training, opportunities within the green economy and real projects to target areas with severe skills shortages.
Will these vulnerable young adults be left without any support in what will be an increasingly harsh world of lower benefits and housing allowances? What will the government’s reaction be to the inevitable increase in crime and substance abuse that we are likely to see in certain communities? It is here than the policy of across the board cuts once again implodes. Making job cuts, cutting education and training resources as well as reducing benefits creates a black hole for individuals; but concurrently slashing policing and prison budgets signals dramatic consequences for society as a whole. This is an issue that threatens to be a national crisis as headline unemployment seems likely to rise next year.
Labour needs to ensure that we are organised, vocal and dynamic in opposition and have plenty to offer on this subject if we are to engage with the youth. More importantly, we must make sure that we don’t lose what should be our best-educated, most internationally focused and most technologically advanced generation of young people in British history.
We need to work with and support community groups, social enterprises and careers services that will be the only hope for many in a twisted version of Cameron’s Big Society.

1 comment:

  1. Rachel forwarded a copy of the article you have written, it’s brilliant. An excellent example of positive lobbying on behalf of young people and the service. There is little to no media attention regarding the cuts to Youth Connexions Services, so it is good to read something that talks of a service that is needed so positively.

    Across Connexions West-there were 10% cuts earlier this year and a further 30% is happening as we speak. In Bristol we find out if we have a job at the end of this month. Youth unemployment in Bristol continues to rise. There is no decision yet how services will manage this with the level of cuts about to happen.

    Having worked with some of the most hard to reach young people in the city, most likely to become ‘NEET’ and with multiple barriers to employment, education and training, I continually bridge gaps between services. The gaps will widen significantly. I am about to visit a young man who has not attended school for 2-3 academic years and now officially leaving school he will not come out of his home to engage with anything that is being offered in his community. If I didn’t knock on his door and offer a service he would receive no support. Yes, he may walk into the job centre tomorrow to claim JSA but are these professionals trained to listen to, engage and support such vulnerable young people- do they have skills to make a difference to the young people that you refer to in your article? I feel upset and concerned about the future for young people in this county. The government does owe it to the electorate to offer some hope and practical solution to our young people- you have def hit the nail on the head there for me.