North East youth unemployment must be tackled - David Miliband

A 120% rise in youth unemployment in the North East has created an emergency that must be tackled, a commission chaired by David Miliband said yesterday.

David Miliband

A 120% rise in youth unemployment in the North East has created an emergency that must be tackled, a commission chaired by David Miliband said yesterday.

Long-term unemployment among young people in his own South Shields constituency jumped by 210% in 2011, increasing from 150 to 465 people.

But the Commission on Youth Unemployment found similar “hotspots” in every single council area across the region.

It said 12.53% of 16 to 24-year-olds were on jobseekers’ allowance in the Washington North ward, the ninth highest in the United Kingdom.

In Newcastle, it found 1,175 more young people claiming benefit – and more than 13 times more young people doing so for a year or more – than before the recession.

Nationally, the report from the commission chaired by Mr Miliband identified 600 hotspots across the UK, covering 152 local authority areas, where the proportion of young people claiming jobseeker’s allowance was double the national average.

The commission estimated at least one in four young people are not in employment, education or training (NEET) as it warned the “emergency” of youth unemployment was a £28bn “timebomb” under the UK’s finances. The current levels of youth joblessness will cost the public purse at least £4.8bn this year, but the wider costs will be even greater, said the report.

And the Government was urged to do more to help young people find work, including a part-time job guarantee for those on the Work Programme for a year.

The report also called for a new national programme to work with teenagers, as well as a mentoring scheme for young people.

Mr Miliband said: “The North East isn’t top of this league that it is bad to be top of, but it’s not bottom either.

“So, it has been hard hit,” he added, highlighting the 200% increase in South Shields in the claimant count over six months in 2011 and the 120% rise across the North East as a whole.

The former foreign secretary said: “Britain faces a youth unemployment emergency.

“This is a crisis we cannot afford. Government have set the right goal - abolishing long-term youth unemployment, but we will need big change if we are to achieve it.

“Young people, Government, communities and employers will all need to up their game if young people are to succeed in a radically changing jobs market.

“Our report sets out a practical route map for how they can do precisely that.

“The crisis of youth unemployment can and must be tackled now. With action, we can make a real difference across Britain.”

Mr Miliband said money could be brought forward to double the number of wage subsidies this year, while hundreds of millions pounds earmarked for “problem” families could be used alongside European money.

The commission also found there was no statistical evidence that immigration, the benefits system or minimum wage affected the level of youth unemployment. Sir Stephen Bubb, Chief Executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, which set up the commission, said youth unemployment was a “burning issue”.

He urged the Government and private sector to work with them to solve the crisis.

A Government spokeswoman said cutting youth unemployment was a priority and that its £1bn youth contract would help young people get the help, training and skills needed to enter the workplace.

Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg said the report offered a number of practical measures that Labour would be looking at.

“David Miliband is right that we need to identify early those young people who are most at risk of becoming NEETs.

“But instead, under this Government’s watch, new apprenticeships for teenagers are falling, and work experience, vocational training and careers advice are being undermined,” said Mr Twigg.

Page 3 - David Miliband offers support for directly elected city mayors >>

David Miliband offers support for directly elected city mayors

DAVID Miliband has strongly backed elected mayors to run England’s big cities.

London-style elected mayors could hold the key to tackling youth unemployment and raising the profile of cities, said the former Labour cabinet minister.

He questioned why London mayor Boris Johnson was the only well-known figure from local government, adding that Northern city leaders should also command the national stage.

Ministers would find it more difficult to say no to leaders like Nick Forbes, who heads Newcastle City Council, if they had a direct mandate from voters, said the South Shields MP.

His comments come as Newcastle and other major English cities prepare for Government-ordered referenda in May asking residents if they want directly elected mayors.

“I am not going to tell people how to vote, but I do believe that strengthening local government is important and direct accountability that mayoral systems give is a way of triggering that,” said Mr Miliband.


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