£126m Youth Contract scheme ‘not enough’

Carl Crossman.
Carl Crossman.

A COMMUNITY organisation says a multi-million-pound scheme to help young people into work has “narrow scope”.

The Wharton Trust, in Hartlepool, agrees the £126m Youth Contract scheme announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg yesterday will help young people “move forward”.

But trust bosses say extra should be done to help more young people, as the fund only targets 16 and 17-year-olds who have no GCSEs at Grade C or above.

Mr Clegg has pledged to deal with the “ticking time bomb” of teenagers who are not in work, school, or training, or “NEETS” – not in education, employment, or training.

At least 55,000 16 and 17-year-olds are set to benefit from the scheme, which will see charities and businesses invited to bid for contracts worth up to £2,200 to take young people on.

Carl Crossman, access to employment co-ordinator at the trust, based in Wharton Terrace, said: “Of course we welcome the announcement that there is money to be made available to support specific groups of NEET young people to move forward and believe that it will help some young people which is a good thing.

“However, we have real concern that there are many young people who will not benefit from the scheme due to the narrow parameters announced so far.

“Equally importantly, the scheme will not enable small organisations, such as the Wharton Trust, to be part of the delivery of this work.

This age range has been singled out because evidence suggests that unemployment early on can have a permanent effect on earning potential, according to the Department for Education.

The Hartlepool Mail reported earlier this month that the Access to Employment course, which has helped 300 people into work over the past two years, is under threat due to funding cuts.

It came during the launch of our Work in Progress campaign, which aims to highlight the plight of the town’s unemployed and help them into work.

Mr Crossman added: “The nature of the contracting arrangements appear to be on a results basis, which means that only organisations with large reserves will be able to take a risk on working with the young people on what is essentially a no win-no fee basis.”

Under the Youth Contract scheme, young people would receive an initial payment up front and more money when they show good progress.

The announcement comes days after the latest unemployment figures showed the number of jobless 16 to 24-year-olds increased by 22,000 to 1.04 million in the three months to December.

Last month in Hartlepool, 4,633 people claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance, with 1,460 of claimants being young people aged 18 to 24.

Mr Clegg said: “This problem isn’t new, but in the current economic climate we urgently need to step up efforts to ensure some of our most troubled teenagers have the skills, confidence and opportunities to succeed.”