Youth Unemployment

Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons am 2:34 pm ar 13 Tachwedd 2023.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lee Anderson Lee Anderson Deputy Chair, Conservative Party 2:34, 13 Tachwedd 2023

What steps his Department is taking to reduce youth unemployment.

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The level of youth unemployment is down by 43.8% since 2010, and this Government remain committed to delivering targeted support to young people through our expanded DWP youth offer, providing comprehensive employment support for 16 to 24-year-olds claiming universal credit. That offer includes intensive support through the youth employment programme, youth employability coaches and youth hubs across Great Britain.

Photo of Lee Anderson Lee Anderson Deputy Chair, Conservative Party

I visit businesses on a weekly basis, and one thing they tell me in Ashfield is that they struggle to recruit apprentices. One of the barriers is the requirement for English and maths, because a lot of these young people would make great apprentices but they either messed about at school or have not had that support. What more can we do to get those young people into apprenticeships, and then support them with their maths and English at a later stage?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

We fund apprentices to achieve English and maths qualifications by the end of their apprenticeships. We understand how important they are for people’s long-term career prospects, and we are boosting the rate for those qualifications by 54% from January. We are also piloting flexible English and maths requirements for young people with learning difficulties or disabilities, to ensure that they are not overlooked when it comes to apprenticeship opportunities.[This section has been corrected on 16 November 2023, column 7MC — read correction]

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Economic inactivity due to ill health has more than doubled for 18 to 24-year-olds over the past decade. Why does the Minister think that is? Could she also please look again at the closure of the local jobcentre in Halton Lea in my constituency because of building safety issues?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question—I will happily take away his second point, have a look at it and get back to him in writing. I want to assure him and the House that having DWP youth hubs together in one location helps those young people who have been going through very difficult times because of covid. They help local youth experts and local partnerships to come together and overcome those barriers, and ensure that young people have the skills and confidence sought by local employers to take up the opportunities that are around them, just down the road. It is really important that we are there to support them through those mixed youth hubs, which are a big focus for me and for our Department.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Anglo American and its contractors have just announced 70 new job opportunities at its Woodsmith mine just outside Whitby, with workshops both in Whitby and on Teesside for those interested. Does the Minister agree that these sorts of opportunities in the mining industry are just the sorts of opportunities that young people need to grasp with both hands?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question, which goes back to the point about knowing what jobs are just down the road for young people, so that the labour market comes closer to home for them. That is what our youth employability work coaches do, and we saw that with the kickstart programme: 163,000 jobs were created by employers who want young people in their businesses. Their feedback shows that they absolutely got something from having young people in their businesses, and I appeal to employers to keep doing what is happening in Whitby.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Social Care)

But the number of young people unemployed in Denton and Reddish is still far too high—the latest figures show a 7% youth unemployment claimant count, which is not good enough. Given that the share of young people not in full-time employment or education rose last year, what more is the Minister doing to make sure that young people in places such as Denton and Reddish get the life chances they deserve?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I absolutely agree that, in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency and more widely, it is absolutely right that young people get the opportunities they deserve. In fact, since September 2020 the DWP’s youth offer has seen over 600,000 starts. As I mentioned earlier, our comprehensive support for young people now encompasses those from age 16.

Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

The Minister began answering these questions by claiming credit for having better youth unemployment figures now than in the aftermath of a global financial crisis, which seems to me to be a low ambition. As she has heard, we have problems with inactivity and we have more young people who are not doing anything. What account can she give for the fact that, even after 13 and a half long years of Conservative Government, we have worse youth unemployment than Ireland, Norway and the Czech Republic, and that here it is double what it is in Germany and treble what it is in Japan? What on earth has gone wrong?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I think that is a reminder to continually speak up for opportunities for our young people. The current youth employment rate is 53.9%, up three percentage points since 2010. It has been my absolute mission in this Parliament, over the last four and a half years, to focus on young people, with around 140 new youth hubs to support the complex needs of young people. I humbly suggest that the hon. Member goes and looks at the changes that are happening, to see the difference being made in communities up and down the land. We are not writing young people off; we are making sure that we support them. I went to see a new youth hub only last week, and the work being done on housing and with partners is innovative. It means young people with smiles on their faces and their futures in their hands.