Partial scaling back of activities

It has now been over 5 years since The Found Generation was launched in April 2012, at the height of the UK’s youth unemployment crisis, to tackle youth unemployment and prevent a so-called ‘lost generation’ of unemployed young people.

Since we have launched we have achieved a great deal despite our limited time and resources – winning a number of awards; preparing a comprehensive, youth-led programme of policy proposals; giving evidence to a number of official inquiries (most recently giving evidence to an inquiry run by the Work and Pensions Select Committee); and giving young people a voice at many conferences, debates, discussions and meetings on or relating to youth unemployment.

However, we are run by a group of volunteers, who inevitably have many other commitments on their time. The picture on youth unemployment is also very different now than it was 5 years ago. For example youth unemployment is now much lower than it was in 2012, and there is now a cross-party political forum in place to facilitate discussions with politicians and decision-makers on this issue, in the form of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Youth Employment (our first ever campaign called for the creation of an APPG on this area).

It has therefore become increasingly clear that it is long past time for us to pause, take stock, and spend some time carefully considering the best way forward for the group and those involved in it. As part of this process we will therefore be scaling back some of our activities in part for at least the next few months.

However, this does not mean we will be stopping all activities during this period. So for example we will continue to engage with, advise and support key stakeholders such as Youth Employment UK and the APPG on Youth Employment; and we will continue to push the need for further action on youth unemployment and social mobility where we can, including through our Twitter page. Further, if you have any ideas or are interested in supporting us or engaging with us, you are of course more than welcome to continue to contact us.

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Thoughts on the 2017 General Election

The recent announcement of an ‘early’ General Election by the Government caught us, and others, by surprise. Given the short notice, we have some concerns about the way the election will affect the Government’s current, ongoing efforts to tackle youth unemployment and create more opportunities for young people – a point also raised by Youth Employment UK. During the election period and in the immediate aftermath of the formation of a new Government there will inevitably be a considerable amount of disruption to development and implementation of policies and initiatives relating to youth employment and opportunities for young people. This will still be true to some extent even if the Conservative Party is re-elected with a majority (for example there could be reshuffles, changes to ministerial responsibilities, potential policy changes etc).

However the political parties who are most likely to form a Government can limit this disruption by prioritising young people and placing policy related to supporting young people front and centre, whether in their manifestoes for the election or in their programme for Government in the aftermath of the election. After all, this is not a referendum – it is a General Election. It is therefore not just about ‘Brexit’ – it will be fought on policy on all areas.

Before the 2015 General Election, a group of our young volunteers prepared and published a comprehensive cross-party manifesto of policy proposals on youth employment which we thought the next Government should implement. This was our Manifesto for Youth Employment, released in April 2015. We are gratified to see that some of these proposals are being implemented in full or in part by the current Government (for example in relation to the National Citizen Service, or in relation to procurement and apprenticeships).

As it is only two years since the last General Election and given that this year’s election takes place in a matter of weeks, we will not be preparing a new manifesto this year. Instead we will be relying on the Manifesto for Youth Employment we published in 2015. We believe the vast majority of the policies can (and should) be implemented by whichever party or parties win the election and form a Government, and that most if not all of our policy proposals are still highly relevant. Indeed, on 29 March 2017, the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee published their report on Employment opportunities for young people (PDF 1MB), which made a number of recommendations which reflected policy proposals and themes from our 2015 Manifesto. These included improving how Jobcentre Plus deals with young jobseekers; improving co-ordination between Jobcentre Plus and other organisations in local area; and increasing the number of apprenticeships which go to young people. We were particularly pleased to see the Committee recognise in their report that Jobcentre Plus can often be seen as intimidating and unhelpful to many young people, a point we have made for some years and which was a central point of both our Manifesto as well as our written and oral evidence to the Committee’s inquiry on this subject. We also note that the report also cited our written or oral evidence to the Committee on at least 10 or so separate occasions, whether in the main body of the report or in the footnotes.

In light of the ongoing issues facing young people, the still high youth unemployment rate, and the challenges and opportunities which ‘Brexit’ will present over the next few years, especially for young people, we hope that the major political parties will listen more carefully to our proposals this time round.

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Witness Evidence to Work and Pensions Select Committee

Andrew and other witnesses before the Committee

Andrew and other witnesses before the Committee

On 5 December 2016 our co-founder and Director, Andrew Scott-Taggart, gave formal witness evidence in person on behalf of The Found Generation to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, chaired by Frank Field MP. This was for their inquiry on Employment opportunities for young people.

During the hearing Andrew spoke alongside Peter Little OBE, and Carole Easton, Chief Executive of the Young Women’s Trust, and answered a number of challenging questions from the MPs present. Their evidence was the second part of the hearing – the first part of the hearing involved the Committee hearing witness evidence from the MyGo youth employment centre in Suffolk and two of their service users (this is an initiative which we highlighted in our Manifesto in 2015 and recommended that the Government expand to other areas of the country).

AST 05.12.16 DWP Select Committee pic 1 - cropped

Andrew was invited to provide witness evidence after submitting written evidence to the Committee in September 2016. The invitation was made on the basis that The Found Generation’s written evidence included a number of useful, practical suggestions which the Committee wished to consider further, and that we were a particularly appropriate organisation to give further evidence by virtue of being a youth-led organisation. 

To be invited to give evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee was a great honour for us and is a testament to our hard work over the last few years. It is also significant that, unlike many of the organisations which normally give evidence to Select Committees, we were invited to do so despite not having any staff – we rely entirely on volunteers – and despite having very limited funding and limited experience of submitting evidence to these sort of inquiries. This is a welcome indication that we can, and do, punch above our weight in the debate on youth unemployment and promoting opportunities for young people.

The video footage from the hearing is available from the Parliament website. The minutes of the hearing have also been published and can be found here or here.

The written evidence is available on the Parliament website under reference EOP0054 or from our website.

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Written Evidence to House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee

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The House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee is currently holding an inquiry on ‘Employment opportunities for young people‘.

This inquiry is considering whether current provision and support for young people is sufficient to enable their full access to and participation in the labour market, and will identify ways of improving this support, with a particular focus on the transition from education to employment, the support offered to young people via Jobcentre Plus, and issues around progression and quality of work for young people. These areas are being considered under four main headings:

  • To what extent does getting young people into work and supporting them in work require an approach distinct from that of other groups?
  • How effective is Jobcentre Plus Support for Schools likely to be in enhancing young people’s career prospects?
  • How can Jobcentre Plus services for young people be more effectively integrated with other local services, especially around education and skills?
  • What is likely to be the impact of any forthcoming economic uncertainty on young people, and how should the Government best seek to protect them from this?

This inquiry is very timely, especially in light of the EU Referendum vote and the still high youth unemployment rate. The Found Generation therefore provided written evidence to this inquiry. Our written evidence was submitted on 5 September 2016, and was published on the Parliament website in October 2016 under reference EOP0054. It is also available on our website.

Our written evidence covered a number of areas but focused in particular on the many issues relating to Jobcentre Plus, how it can be improved to better help the unemployed young people who use it, and how greater provision can be made for young people who are not on Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit and therefore do not use Jobcentre Plus. We also made a number of policy suggestions, for example proposing the expansion of successful schemes like Norwich for Jobs and the Ipswich MyGo youth employment centre to other parts of the UK.

This point about young people who do not use Jobcentre Plus is particularly important and is often overlooked. According to the monthly analysis of labour market statistics by the monthly analysis of labour market statistics by the Learning and Work Institute, the proportion of unemployed young people (not counting students) who are not claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit and are therefore are not receiving official help with job search, or other areas, is consistently around 60%, and has risen by more than 20% since 2012. Expansion of projects like MyGo could be a key part of the answer to how these young people can be properly supported into work.

We are also pleased to see that the Committee has conducted a web forum of young people aged 16-24 as part of their inquiry, giving them the opportunity to give their views on Jobcentre Plus, careers advice and other areas being considered by the committee such as the ‘National Living Wage’. We are also in discussions with the Committee about the possibility of providing oral witness evidence.

More information on the scope of the inquiry can be found here.

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APPG for Youth Employment meeting on youth unemployment data

Jatin Patel of Impetus PEF giving a presentation to the APPG, including to the APPG Chair Michael Tomlinson MP

Jatin Patel of Impetus PEF giving a presentation to the APPG, including to the APPG Chair Michael Tomlinson MP

We were in attendance at the latest meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Youth Employment on 19 October 2016.

The meeting was the first of the APPG’s new programme of meetings and inquiries for this Parliamentary year (2016-17), with our partners Youth Employment UK continuing as the secretariat of the group. This year the APPG will be running three inquiries:

  1. Youth unemployment data
  2. Education to Employment
  3. Supporting young people furthest from the labour market

This meeting was the initial meeting of their first inquiry on youth unemployment data, which included a presentation from Jatin Patel of Impetus PEF, talking about their Youth Jobs Index, as well as a wider discussion of the topic.

We contributed our thoughts to the meeting, including that the range of official statistics and data which are currently available (e.g. the ‘unemployment’ figures, the ‘NEET’ figures, the ‘claimant count’) do not always tell the full story or give a full picture about youth unemployment.

For example we noted that if statistics suggest the number of young people on unemployment benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance is falling that will usually be seen as a positive development, and rightly so.

However, those statistics would focus on whether a young person has come off benefits, not whether they have gone into work – and the two situations are not necessarily the same – a young person may have come off benefits but still be unemployed. So for example, we noted that some young people may still be unemployed but may be coming off unemployment benefits (or not going back onto them when they need to) because of failings of Jobcentre Plus and/or the benefits system. Further, the majority of young people who are unemployed and who are not full-time students do not claim Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit.

This means these young people, nearly 250,000, are therefore not registered with Jobcentre Plus for official help with their search for a job, and at least some of them are likely to need some sort of support.

More information on the meeting and this year’s inquiries is available via the Youth Employment UK and APPG websites.

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