Opinion: The young people I meet don’t lack ambition - they just need a Government that wants them to get on

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Plenty of young people are fearful about what their futures might hold, due to a lack of prospects, opportunities & support. Here's how we transform that, to the benefit of young people, our local economy & the town as a whole.

With an average of 6,000 more young people a month being not in employment, education or training (so called “NEET”), it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the Government is systematically failing the health and prospects of Britain’s young people.

In our region, the number of 16-24 year olds who are out of work due to ill health hit 20,500 in the second half of last year. This is up a staggering 150% since 2010 and represents the second largest percentage increase in any region in England and Wales. In fact, a recent report from the well-respected Resolution Foundation found that those in their early 20’s are now more likely to be out of work due to ill-health than those in their early 40’s.

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When you add on to that the ongoing cost of living crisis, the deterioration of our public services and the serious problems affecting housing (notably sky high rents and mortgages, and a lack of affordable housing), it’s easy to see why so many young people I talk to feel concerned about their futures.

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Lucy on St Giles

That so many young people in our region aren’t in education or work ought to trouble those with responsibility for policy-making in this area deeply. There’s obviously the human aspect of young people in Northampton being held back and not able to realise their potential, but there’s the economic aspect too. If our ambitious young people aren’t able to acquire the training and skills they need, and access they good jobs they want, then that’s an absolutely scandalous waste of their potential – and, frankly, it’s terrible for our local business, local economy and the future of our town.

What we need is a credible, holistic and joined-up plan to transform young people’s futures by breaking down the barriers they face. Today, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Liz Kendall MP, has set this out. The plan my party is offering will:

● Provide high-quality careers advice and proper work experience in every school, training 1,000 new careers advisors. We’ll also introduce two weeks’ worth of compulsory work experience, to connect young people with local employers and build the skills needed for work.

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● Tackle one of the root causes of young people being out of the work place: poor mental health. Every young person will have access to specialist mental health professional at school, supporting them right from the start and intervening early.

● Deliver a transformed youth employment offer for young people out of work. With employment advisors in every one of Labour’s new ‘Young Futures Hubs’, alongside sign-posting to employability programmes and our open access mental health support available within the hub. For young people who claim unemployment benefit, engaging with support won’t be optional.

● Provide better opportunities for skills and training by turning the Tories’ failed apprenticeships levy into a Growth and Skills Levy and establishing Skills England, a new national body tasked with driving forward a national ambition to meet the skills needs of the next decade.

● Fix Access to Work for young disabled people, delivering indicative awards so that young people who have a disability or health condition can get practical support at work.

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Changes like these would transform the life chances of so many young people in Northampton. And with the numbers of young people who aren’t in education or work growing all the time, I’d argue that they’re desperately needed.