The Creative Society is an arts employment charity that helps young people into jobs in the creative and cultural industries.
Unemployment has reached almost 2.5 million, a sobering enough statistic. But an even more worrying figure is that 951,000, almost a million, of those out of work are between the ages of 18 and 24. Worse, the proportion of young to older people on the dole is rising. The increase in unemployment in the three months to November (the latest figures) was 49,000. Almost two-thirds of those (32,000) were in the 18-24 age group.
This spells disaster for a generation of young people, especially in the light of the scrapping of the Future Jobs Fund and the Educational Maintenance Allowance, two measures aimed specifically at helping young people into work or encouraging them to stay in education and gain further qualifications. David Cameron has said he believes that the problem of EMA is that “more than 90 per cent of those who receive it would stay on at school anyway”. This is a poor argument and, according to David Blanchflower, writing in the Guardian last Friday, is not backed by research. The respected Institute for Fiscal Studies found that, on the contrary, EMA significantly increased participation rates in post-16 education.
Equally worrying is the failure of the government to listen to informed opinions about the dangers of scrapping the Future Jobs Fund. My colleague, Marcus Mason, summarised the extensive concerns of the Work and Pensions Select Committee about the abolition of FJF last month here.
As for the Single Work Programme which is to replace the FJF, there are already worries about its effective operation. The concerns of the Association of Learning Providers can be read here and involve fears among the private contractors and sub-contractors who would be needed to operate the scheme that the current terms of business are too risky.
Economists rightly express concern that the number of men and women seeking work in Britain is nudging towards 8 per cent but the figure that should alarm us all – government, educators, business and industry alike – is that more than 20 per cent of young people are jobless. The consequences of having one in five of Britain’s 18-24 year olds not in work or education in 2011 will be felt for decades to come.
It will cost the nation billions more than the price of creating jobs and better education grants for young people now.