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Tackling youth unemployment

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11 November 2011

This week saw the release of a study carried out by the House of Commons Library into changes in youth unemployment since the coalition came to power. Lewisham East has seen an increase of 192% in number of 18 to 24 year olds who have been on jobseekers’ allowance for more than six months. This is compared to 38.5% in London as a whole.

It is important to note that the actual number of young people are still relatively small (65 people in May 2010 to 190 in September 2011) but that must not detract from the importance of these statistics and the government’s challenge on youth unemployment. This week David Cameron announced his new Community Work Programme for those unemployed for more than two years to “get people back in to touch with the world of work”. Chris Grayling said that “no one should expect to be able to sit at home and do nothing”. But Mr Cameron and Mr Grayling fail to realise that people in Lewisham East do want to get in touch with the world of work and don’t want to sit at home doing nothing – the work is just not there to get into. So many of my constituents write to me, come to my surgeries and even stop me in the street to ask me how exactly they can find jobs. Apprenticeship programmes run by the council are massively oversubscribed and another House of Commons study states that there are around 29 people chasing every vacancy at the JobCentre.

This week I pressed Chris Grayling, the Minister of State for Employment, on the issue of youth unemployment in Lewisham. In his reply he accused the previous government of “fiddling the figures on youth unemployment”. Instead of attacking the Labour government and talking about the regional growth fund and enterprise zones, young people in Lewisham East just want to hear, in plain English, what the government will do for young people in Lewisham.

The government need to wake up and realise how much of a pressing issue youth unemployment is in areas like Lewisham. Young people like those at Trinity School who are campaigning on this want answers and tangible policies to tackle this issue and I will continue to press the government to make this their top priority.

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