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Scrap 'failing' Jobcentre Plus for under-24s, says LGA

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The number of 16- to 24-year-olds out of work for more than two years has quadrupled in the past decade, according to analysis.

The LGA said about 90,000 of the nation’s youngsters had been jobless for two years or more – up from 21,000 in 2005 – and claimed a third of young people (about 2.1m) would be unemployed or underemployed by 2018 unless something changed. It estimated youth unemployment would cost the economy £28bn over the next decade.

David Sparks (Lab), chair of the LGA, will use his speech to the national children’s and adults services conference in Manchester today to call for Jobcentre Plus services for under-24s to be scrapped and replaced with a locally led ‘youth transitions service’. That would provide advice and support to 14- to 24-year-olds to get them in to education, training or work, he will say.

The former careers adviser will also propose a job subsidy programme, which would be delivered by councils working with local employers, to fast-track 220,000 youngsters, who have been unemployed for more than a year, into work.

Another idea is the introduction of a national ‘youth transition allowance’ to replace the jobseeker’s allowance.

Cllr Sparks will also ask for the devolution of further education and apprenticeship support funding to partnerships of councils, employers, schools and colleges. Those partnerships would be tasked with ensuring young people had the right skills for the jobs that existed locally.

In a statement Cllr Sparks 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.”

Cllr Sparks said “councils are best-placed to identify the most disillusioned young people” and work with partners to provide the help they 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,” he said.

“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.”

Cllr Sparks claimed devolving nationally run education, skills and employment schemes to local areas could “halve youth disengagement and reduce long-term unemployment by a third by the end of the next parliament”.

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