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Work schemes failing without councils

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National youth employment schemes are not working because government has “side-lined” councils rather than using their local knowledge, local government leaders have warned.

The LGA has criticised national efforts to tackle youth unemployment and called for councils to be given a much more central role in the commissioning and design of the government’s various work schemes.

David Simmonds (Con), chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “It’s clear that nationally driven attempts to tackle youth unemployment aren’t working.

“While there are a number of good initiatives, government has side-lined councils and incentivised a series of services like schools, colleges and third sector providers to work in isolation of each other, with no clarity on who is responsible for leading the offer to young people on the ground.”

An LGA report published on Monday showed the number of young people starting one of 35 national schemes had fallen by 8% between 2009-10 and 2012-13 and also found success rates on local schemes were better.

While only 27% of 16 and 17 year olds on the government’s youth contract moved on to education, training or employment, schemes in Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford had a success rate of 57%.

“We would now urge government to give local authorities and their partners the powers to ‘own the problem’ and become the link between young people and local employers,” Cllr Simmonds said.

The LGA is calling for councils to become the “default commissioners” of all work programmes for people aged under 24 years, and for councils to lead work with employers and work programme providers in setting local and sub-regional priorities.

They also want councils to commission the wage subsidies which are paid to firms taking on young employees as part of the youth contract.

Cllr Simmonds said: “By introducing a local approach to addressing youth unemployment councils and their partners will be better able to spot and offer early help to young people struggling at school, train young people in skills to take local jobs in local labour markets, help improve the performance of the work programme for the hardest to reach, and target job subsidies to local businesses offering the best opportunities for young people.”

As previously reported by LGC, councils including the eight core cities have been lobbying government to localise aspects of its unemployment programmes.

Last month, the deputy prime minister announced a greater role for the core cities in the youth contract. However, the limited nature of the announcement led the County Councils Network to accuse the government of ignoring rural employment, a charge the Cabinet Office denied.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work & Pensions said the LGA report published this week “fails to recognise that despite youth unemployment being a big challenge for a decade, the level has fallen by 38,000 since last year, and the number of young people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance has fallen for 14 consecutive months”.

She added: “We’re not complacent about the challenge in tackling this problem and through Jobcentre Plus we’re already working locally with businesses and councils to help young people into work. Our youth contract alone will offer help to nearly 500,000 young people over three years.

“We already ensure that those young people who need skills training are given that opportunity and this autumn we will launch a new traineeship programme which will help those who do not have the right experience or qualifications to get an apprenticeship or find a job.”

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