Young people not in employment, education, or training (Neet) would be required to do community or charity work in order to claim benefits under a future Conservative government, Prime Minister David Cameron announced today.
Cameron said 18 to 21 year olds who had been out of work or training for six months would need to commit to 30 hours of community work a week from day one in order to receive a youth allowance. Ten hours a week would need to be spent seeking employment.
A Conservative government would tackle the “well-worn path from the school gate down to the job centre and onto a life on benefits”, Cameron said. At a speech in Hove, East Sussex, the Prime Minister said those who had drifted into inactivity “need the order and discipline of turning up for work each day”.
“A Conservative government would require them to do daily community work from the very start of their claim for unemployment benefit as well as searching for work.”
The Conservatives had already announced plans to abolish access to Jobseekers Allowance for 18 to 21 year olds. Instead, the party would introduce a youth allowance time-limited to six months, after which claimants are required to take an apprenticeship or do daily community work in return for the benefits.
However, co-chair of youth social action charity Generation Change Sophie Livingstone said compulsory community service “undermines the valuable contributions” young people make to their communities.
“Done well, youth social action can benefit young people just as much as local communities in terms of their employability, but the danger with today's announcement is young people out of work are forced to undertake low quality unpaid placements that do nothing for their prospects,” Livingstone said. “Government should be encouraging more young people to make a contribution to their communities, not denigrating it by setting up last-resort community service programmes."
Impetus-PEF, which provides funding and strategic advice to charities and social enterprises that work for disadvantaged 11 to 24 year olds, dismissed the suggestion as a “another go at cure, rather than prevention”.
Director of policy and strategy Jenny North said the link from school to work has been broken for many years, and the plans announced by Cameron today would do little to change it.
“There isn’t ‘a well-worn path from school to the job centre’, and Neets aren’t the feckless hoodies of media portrayal. Impetus-PEF research shows that the majority of young people who end up Neet enrolled in FE colleges. And yet they are either failing to secure qualifications there, or studying for qualifications which don’t lead to employment.”
Impetus-PEF called for the appointment of a dedicated Secretary of State to deal with the problem. The post would work on improving school-to-work transitions, focusing on higher-quality further education and apprenticeships, tailoring job-search services for young people, and incentivising local authorities to make an impact.
By 2020, the Secretary of State should be able to report that every school in England and Wales is responsible for the post-16 destinations of their pupils, Impetus-PEF argues, and that they are properly resourced to help ensure every pupil is supported to a destination in education, training or employment.
Further education providers would have significantly improved the rates of learners achieving the qualifications that will help them in the workplace, and two-thirds of all government-funded apprenticeships would be reserved for under-25s.
Every Jobcentre Plus in England and Wales would employ specialist youth advisers, and every local authority would have developed active partnerships of schools and colleges, employers, and the voluntary sector to develop strategies to deliver programmes aimed at reducing numbers of local young people Neet.