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.