One of my Labour Party members, a young man we shall call Sam to protect his identity, is out of work.
He has worked in the past in retail and administration positions but has now been out of work for quite a long time. He is hard working, loyal, reliable and punctual, that’s my personal assessment of him. Sam really wants a job and tries very hard to get one, he applies for everything he sees, he takes his CV with him everywhere he goes but sadly he is getting nowhere.
When I first met him he explained to me that he was in that perennial Catch 22, so common with young people, as at a time of huge competition in the job market where 750 people applied for 18 positions in Costa Coffee recently, he can’t get a job without recent experience, and he can’t gain experience unless he is in a job.
Recently on a visit to our local Credit Union, the manager told me she was looking for volunteers to help on the administration side. I thought of Sam straight away, if he could give her support perhaps once a week, he would be helping out a valuable enterprise whilst boosting his CV so I sent him to see her and they agree he would have a trial and see if they suited each other.
He told the Job Centre about it on his next visit but they said he couldn’t start on the day he had in mind as they wanted to send him on a course to refresh his CV and check out how ready he was for the job market. It is a course he has been on many times before but they wouldn’t budge; he had to tell the Credit Union he couldn’t start yet. After a few weeks he went back to the Credit Union and agreed another day when he could go in. This time the Job Centre refused to let him go because he would need to discuss it with his advisor who was unfortunately off sick. The third time he asked if he could finally start volunteering at the Credit Union the Job Centre said they didn’t want him to go and would rather he volunteered with them instead – doing their administration work. There has been no progress on this either.
This makes me very angry.
It is not an isolated example though. The men who were mending my fence the other day told me a similar story. They had wanted to take on an unemployed lad who had worked for them before but needed him to go on a week’s training course first to teach him an aspect of their trade before he could begin supporting them on a new contract. They were told he was not available to come on the course because he had an advisor’s meeting that they refused to move; not even to get him into a job.
At the weekend I was told about a young woman who was offered a job in a chicken shop. The manager told her she would need to spend the first two weeks working full time for 40 hours, on her benefit rate while she was learning the ropes. She told him she had done similar work before and wouldn’t need two weeks to get the hang of the role, he agreed that a week would be sufficient and then she could start earning the going rate. When she reported this back to the Job Centre they said she would have to take the two weeks – working 40 hours for only £50, twice – because that was how the Workfare scheme worked upon which the job was available.
I hear examples like this all the time. The system is not working to support our young people; it is working against them.
There are nearly a million unemployed young people nationally, with over 250,000 who have been out of work for over a year and as Sam’s case shows, the longer people are out of work the harder it is to get into a job. There is also a worrying impact on their future earnings potential. This group should have been the focus for the Government but they have no solutions.
Labour has argued for a compulsory job guarantee where the Government makes sure a job offer is provided; we know it works, we found that with the highly successful Future Jobs Fund. A programme David Cameron inherited but scrapped to make a cheap political point, casting young people out into the cold. A programme indeed that was subsequently shown in this Government’s own report in 2012 to have produced a net gain for Britain and to have been substantial, significant and valuable.
In Stockton South there has been a 325% increase in the number of young people who are unemployed long term under the Conservative and Liberal Democrat government, since the Prime Minister scrapped the Future Jobs Fund.
This is a clear betrayal of the dreams and ambitions of our young people and Britain can do better than this.