More than two million young people will be jobless or underemployed by 2018 unless radical changes are made to “rescue” them from long-term unemployment, according to a new report.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said positive employment figures were hiding the plight of 16 to 24-year-olds, claiming they were being “failed” by the system designed to help them.
Long-term unemployment could be cut by a third before the end of the current parliament if nationally-run education, skills and employment schemes were devolved to local areas, said the LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales.
Around 90,000 young people have been out of work for at least two years, while two out of five were “hidden” in underemployment, working part-time or over-qualified for their job, said the report.
David Sparks, who chairs the LGA, set out a series of plans, including a job subsidy programme aimed at the 220,000 young people unemployed for more than a year, scrapping Jobcentre Plus and the “maze” of national schemes, and launching a new payment to replace jobseeker’s allowance.
Mr Sparks, who worked as a careers adviser in the West Midlands for 30 years, said: “Unemployment is falling but we cannot get complacent. Hidden beneath this overall fall, thousands of our vulnerable youngsters are being left behind by growth and councils fear that they may never recover. They are being failed by an inefficient maze of national schemes and are fast losing faith in the system and in themselves.
“For a young person out of work for two years or more, one more trip to the Jobcentre or an extra CV-writing course just won’t make any difference. They are falling into a benefit system designed for adults that have lost their jobs rather than to help young people start careers. As a result, too many have become long-term unemployed or underemployed in jobs with too few hours or low pay.
“Councils are best placed to identify the most disillusioned young people as early as possible and to work with partners and communities to give them the help they urgently need. But we need radical change so we can equip future jobseekers with the skills, confidence and real-life experience they need to find work and rapidly help those 220,000 youngsters looking for work for over a year.
“Young people need a new kind of service, one that is joined up locally around their needs and the needs of local employers rather than remote national institutions and bureaucracies.
“Government cannot afford to spend inefficiently on 40 different schemes that compete, duplicate and conflict locally and must commit to devolving nationally-run education, skills and employment schemes to local areas able to join up and target services so that our vulnerable young people are not left behind.”
The LGA said the number of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work for more than two years has quadrupled in the past decade.