House of Lords Social Mobility Committee – Governments have failed or overlooked a generation of young people

We have been a little quiet lately (which tends to happen when you have a group run by young volunteers in their spare time). However, this week was a big week in the youth employment space – on Friday 8 April 2016 the House of Lords Select Committee on Social Mobility published the report from their inquiry on the school to work transition for young people, particularly in relation to young people who do not attend university.

The Select Committee on Social Mobility was appointed by the House of Lords on 11 June 2015 to consider social mobility in the transition from school to work for 14–24 year olds and included a group of experts on the subject, ranging from former Labour Education Secretary Baroness Morris to Conservative peer Baroness Stedman-Scott, former CEO of the charity Tomorrow’s People (she is also a supporter of The Found Generation and a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Youth Employment).

Their report, “Overlooked and left behind: improving the transition from school to work for the majority of young people“, is a comprehensive review of transitions from education to work for young people, especially young people who do not go to university but are not NEETs. The Committee summarise their recommendations as follows:

This report makes eight recommendations to the Government. Our recommendations support the development of a coherent and navigable transition system for those aged 14–24. These recommendations do not add to the policy fragmentation which has hindered progress and clarity. Instead we recommend a cohesive system: a core curriculum for those aged 14–19, with tailor made academic or vocational elements, a gold standard in careers advice, and careers education in schools that empowers young people to make good decisions about their future. This system needs to be underpinned by reliable and publicly available data. It needs to be properly funded, owned by a single Minister, and monitored for success

We were one of the many organisations to submit evidence to the inquiry so we are delighted that our submission has been extensively cited throughout the Select Committee’s report. Our written evidence, which was submitted to the Select Committee in September 2015 and is available on our website or the Parliament website as submission SMO0101; was cited in no less than 8 separate parts of the report, covering the following points:

  • The fact that many employers would rather recruit people who demonstrate that they have skills to succeed than those who have academic qualifications (see paragraph 35, page 26, footnote 52)
  • The importance of face to face careers advice (see paragraph 216, pages 74-75, footnote 348)
  • The fact that the current transition system does not provide enough support to young people who do not follow the A-Level and higher education route – an assessment which was directly quoted from our written evidence (see paragraph 221, page 76, footnote 357)
  • That experience of the workplace and of employers is vital for young people to obtain jobs and to become socially mobile (see paragraph 232, page 78, footnote 371)
  • That social action or volunteering by young people should be encouraged to build their employability skills (see paragraph 236, page 79, footnote 380)
  • The development of life skills ought to be a feature of the curriculum (see paragraph 249, page 82, footnote 394)
  • That expanding the use of public sector procurement could create more jobs and other opportunities for young people (paragraph 338, page 99, footnote 510)
  • Improving the transition into work for school leavers should be a joint effort (paragraph 365, page 107, footnote 560)

We are also pleased that many of the policies we called for in our evidence and documents such as our Manifesto for Youth Employment have also been backed in some form by the Select Committee, including a requirement for high quality careers advice and guidance (supported by appropriate labour market information); ensuring that a specific government minister will assume ultimate responsibility for the transition from school to work for young people; and suggesting that the Government should act as a facilitator to broker collaboration between existing local organisations in a local area – such as FE colleges, schools, local authorities, LEPs and employers – to support young people in that area.

It is very clear that the Government need to do a great deal more to tackle these problems and to ensure that they do not continue into the future. This report is a valuable one but it is in some ways the latest in an ongoing series of reports which show that politicians of all parties have not done enough to deal with the issue of youth unemployment or to improve the life chances of young people from all backgrounds. We set up The Found Generation to tackle youth unemployment and prevent a ‘lost generation’ – so it somewhat depressing to see that, despite recent very welcome falls in youth unemployment, the Select Committee on Social Mobility argue that a generation of young people have been and remain ‘forgotten’ or ‘overlooked’ by policy-makers and that the underlying causes of and reasons for youth unemployment remain largely unaddressed.

We are concerned that the recent falls in youth unemployment have made the Government complacent. Even the March 2016 Budget, which was billed as a Budget for the “next generation“, appeared to put forward very little in the way of policy change or additional support for young people to tackle youth unemployment. We hope that the Social Mobility Committee’s report will provide a much-needed wake up call for the Government.

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YMCA research on young people and Jobcentre Plus

As we referred to in our last post, the recent Parliamentary debate led by Chloe Smith MP (on young jobseekers and the role of the DWP and Jobcentre Plus in supporting them) not only addressed our own research but also considered some important recent research from YMCA England in a report called “Safety Net or Springboard?”. This report examined how social security and benefits systems could be transformed to better enable young people into employment and fulfill their potential.

The YMCA conducted a series of focus groups across England with young people in summer 2015 and the young people they spoke to identified six areas they believed Jobcentre Plus could improve on to increase their prospects of finding employment:

  1. Understanding young people’s circumstances
  2. Listening to young people’s aspirations
  3. Supporting young people to look for work
  4. Getting young people the right skills and qualifications
  5. Securing young people with meaningful work experience
  6. Retaining support for young people transitioning into employment

The YMCA report found, in summary, that:

The overwhelming feelings expressed by the young people participating in the research were ones of frustration and dismay towards job centres and the support they currently provide in helping to find employment.

More than nine in 10 of individuals taking part in the focus groups believed the support they were currently or previously receiving from their job centre was not helping them find employment…”

In turn, the YMCA concluded that:

“Contrary to much of the rhetoric surrounding those young people accessing the social security system, the reality is that most young people who find themselves out of work desperately want to find employment.

However, rather than preparing and helping young people find work, in many cases the existing job centre arrangements merely dehumanise those who access its services, damaging their confidence and in some cases even setting back their journey into employment.

Despite a range of well-intentioned schemes being put in place by successive governments, many young people are continuing to be prescribed the same generic support, regardless of their circumstances and aspirations. This is creating a significant discordance between how young people view the service being provided and what governments believe they offer.

While examples of good practice do exist, the research illustrates that these are few and far between and that job centres across the country are not currently providing young people with the employment support they need.

It is clear that in their current from job centres are failing to fulfil one of their two key roles – providing public employment services. The research shows that young people are not seeing their local job centre as a place they can go to get support finding a job, but simply as a benefit processing office.

Significant reforms are needed to transform job centres from a safety net that simply provides financial support into a springboard that helps young people find employment.”

These quotes highlight to us what a crucial piece of research it is, and we are pleased that it has been highlighted so strongly in Parliament by Chloe Smith MP. When 9 out of 10 of the young people questioned believed that Jobcentre Plus – the organisation which is supposed to help them find employment – does not help them and has not helped them find employment, there is something very seriously wrong.

We previously addressed the many issues with Jobcentre Plus in our Manifesto on Youth Employment and this research tallies with much of the evidence already available. For example, in our Manifesto we highlighted a 2013 poll of unemployed 16-24 year olds for the Local Government Association which found that a majority of young people feel that Jobcentre Plus does not tell them anything new (65%), does not provide skills or experience relevant for a job (52%), and does not understand or support their personal circumstances (50%). We also proposed an extensive, detailed programme for reforming and fixing the problems that we and others have identified and there have since been increasing calls for reform of Jobcentre Plus – for example on the influential ConservativeHome website.

However, the YMCA research clearly strengthens the case and need for those measures and highlights how urgently they are needed, especially as their own recommendations for reform are very similar to our own.

Yet the Government has not done enough to fix these problems and has allowed many of them to continue. This is nothing less than a national scandal. The Government cannot continue to sit back and do nothing when Jobcentre Plus is so clearly failing to achieve one of its key purposes, especially when it is failing to the extent that young people feel that Jobcentre Plus dehumanises them, damages their confidence and in some cases even sets back their journey to employment rather than moving it forward – which is the precise opposite of what it is supposed to be doing and what it is funded by taxpayers’ money to do.

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The Found Generation cited in debate in UK Parliament on young jobseekers

We are absolutely delighted to report that The Found Generation and some of our key reports and policy proposals were cited with approval this week in a Westminster Hall debate in the UK Parliament, held on Tuesday 27 October 2015.

The debate, on ‘Young Jobseekers’ and the role of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Jobcentre Plus in helping them, was arranged and led by Chloe Smith MP, head of the Norwich for Jobs campaign and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Youth Employment. Chloe opened the debate by explaining that:

I want to lead a positive and constructive debate using recent research into the role of the Department for Work and Pensions, specifically jobcentres, in supporting young people to find long-term employment“.

In particular, Chloe focused on recent research and proposals from two organisations working with young people: YMCA England and The Found Generation. Praising us as an “extremely practical group that asks young people for their own solutions to the problem of young unemployment”, Chloe made reference to our two major reports – last year’s report on Practical Solutions to UK Youth Unemployment and our pre-election Manifesto on Youth Employment – as well as making the Government and MPs aware of some of our specific policy proposals.

We were also very pleased to see a mention for our friends at Youth Employment UK for their Youth Friendly Charter programme and their work as the secretariat of the APPG on Youth Employment.

The key quotes relating to us and Youth Employment UK are as follows:

Research by the Found Generation holds up MyGo, a youth employment centre that was the starting point of the Ipswich project, as a very powerful project…”

“…I would also recommend that Members take a look at the work of the Found Generation, as mentioned earlier. It is another extremely practical group that asks young people for their own solutions to the problem of young unemployment. In July 2014, it published “Practical Solutions to UK Youth Unemployment”, a report asking for four things. First, it asks that we expand

“the use of public sector procurement to create jobs for young people”, which I note that the Minister for the Cabinet Office is now doing. Secondly, we are asked to back

“a national ‘kitemark’ to recognise ‘youth friendly’ employers” and I note that at least one organisation, Youth Employment UK—the secretariat of the all-party parliamentary group that I chair—is already doing so. Indeed, hon. Members can qualify for the award, as I have. I am a recognised youth-friendly MPThirdly, the report argues for

“the creation of more local partnerships—including representation for young people—to co-ordinate” the work that needs to be done. I hope that my examples make that clear. Finally, the report argues for the creation of

“a cross-government youth employment unit or agency in the UK Government, headed by a Minister for Youth Employment”.

I am aware that such a scheme exists in the Scottish Government, so perhaps Scottish Members can outline a few points around that. Will the Minister give an update on what the Government’s earn-or-learn taskforce is doing? The Found Generation’s manifesto for youth employment at the 2015 general election echoed many of the themes that I drew out from the earlier research. We are looking for a more specialist, personalised, sustainable and empowered approach that puts young people at its heart.”

The debate can be read in full here or here.

Chloe also very kindly cited our work in an article for PoliticsHome.com in advance of the debate, which can be found here.

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The Found Generation to address MPs and Lords in Parliament

We are delighted to announce that we have been invited to address a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Youth Employment, a cross-party group of MPs and Lords, in the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday 16th September 2015.

We will be addressing the APPG on their first meeting since Parliament returned from the summer recess, talking to them about our policy ideas, giving them an overview of the current situation with regard to youth unemployment and how those policies are coordinated and implemented. We will be speaking alongside a representative from the highly respected Work Foundation.

This is very good news for the campaign and further establishes that we are now a respected authority on the subject of youth unemployment in the UK. It also gives us a unique chance to represent the views of young people to decision-makers and to help guide the course of the APPG’s work on youth unemployment over the next months and years by setting out our views at the beginning of their programme of work.

We are also very pleased to confirm that The Found Generation has been confirmed as an Associate Member of the APPG and that our Campaign Manager, Andrew, has been named as a member of the APPG’s Advisory Panel – further establishing our credentials in this regard.

More information can be found at the APPG website.

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The relaunched APPG on Youth Employment

We at The Found Generation have campaigned since we were set up in 2012 for the creation of an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Youth Employment. The idea was that this cross party forum of MPs and Lords in the UK Parliament would provide a vital voice in Parliament and to the Government of the day on the critical issue of youth unemployment and would have a serious influence on policy. We hoped in particular that this APPG would take a lead from successful groups like the APPG on Financial Education for Young People (supported by the Personal Finance Education Group, or pfeg) which successfully campaigned for Financial Education to be included in the National Curriculum by the Coalition Government.

Ideally it would also have a secretariat – a body providing support and advice to the APPG – which could help the APPG fulfill its goals, particularly by bringing in young people and providing them with a voice in Parliament.

Although an APPG on this subject was finally set up before the last election, proving that our campaign was a worthwhile and necessary one, it initially proved to be ineffective despite our best efforts to advise and support the group.

We are therefore delighted to announce that the APPG on Youth Employment (re-named from the previous APPG on Youth Unemployment) has been relaunched after the 2015 election, with a new Chair – the fantastic Chloe Smith, MP for Norwich North. We are just as delighted to report that our friends at Youth Employment UK, who we actively partner with and work with on their Advisory Board, have been appointed as the first secretariat of the group. This means that there is an active, cross-party, group of experts and campaigners on the subject who will be supporting and helping the APPG.

Critically, there will also be significant potential for young people to be involved in the APPG’s work, including through YEUK’s Youth Ambassador programme and through The Found Generation. This is something we have hoped for since the beginning of our campaign. With that in mind, we can also announce that The Found Generation will be playing a leading role in assisting YEUK on its work as secretariat of the APPG, in recognition of our close work with YEUK and our extensive campaigning and lobbying on the issue. We will be advising and supporting YEUK on this initiative and helping to ensure that MPs and Lords listen to the voice of young people, including pushing the Government to implement policies such as those suggested in our youth-led Manifesto for Youth Employment (we are particularly pleased to see that this is on the APPG’s list of background reading).

You can find out more from the YEUK website, or the new APPG website.

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