As the shadow minister for employment, I have been working hard to hold the government to account on supporting young people into work during this crisis.
Figures published last month show that more than 620,000 16- to 24-year-olds are unemployed, while Kickstart, the government’s flagship youth job creation scheme, has provided only 2,000 jobs despite its launch more than six months ago.
New analysis from Labour revealed that 292 young people have lost their jobs each day since Rishi Sunak became chancellor, yet the Kickstart scheme has created only 13 jobs a day since its launch. After delays, only one in 100 young people of those eligible have started a Kickstart placement.
Analysis from the House of Commons Library found that BAME people in this age group are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as their white peers.
Last week, the BBC reported on the case of Jamie, 22, who had been through 200 job interviews without success. “It’s not just the rejection, it’s the feeling that the door is fused shut and you just don’t have a key,” he said.
In June, the prime minister pledged an “Opportunity Guarantee” so that every young person would be offered the chance of an apprenticeship or an in-work placement. Fast forward eight months, when I ask ministers about the progress on this, they completely avoid the question.
Young people are now suffering the consequences. Labour is calling on the government to implement a genuine Opportunity Guarantee to ensure each young person out of work for more than six months has access to a meaningful choice of an education placement, apprenticeship, or a job.
Young people need effective support to help them back into work to avoid the scarring impact of long-term unemployment. Instead, what they have had so far has been sorely lacking. The government needs to step up and work cross-departmentally to generate meaningful opportunities for young people across the country, many of whom face an incredibly challenging year.
While Britain has had the worst recession of any major economy because of this government’s incompetence, no young person from any of our communities should have to pay the price for its failure.
Throughout this crisis, the government has let down our young people time and again. It must urgently get on with delivering the opportunity guarantee our young people need.
This article was first published by Eastern Eye on 17th February 2021.