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.

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