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Tom Phillips

Government’s fragmented approach not enough to tackle crisis of long-term youth unemployment

Authors: Tom Phillips Tom Phillips

19 June 2012

Ahead of this month’s employment figures, a report published by The Work Foundation warns that the government’s response to the youth unemployment crisis is insufficient and fragmented, with responsibilities split across departments and a lack of coordination at a national level. 

The report calls for the creation of a dedicated national unit headed by a minister who would be responsible for oversight and coordination of the government’s response. It argues that the priority must be long-term youth unemployment, which has quadrupled over the past decade and more than doubled since the start of the recession. While there is no shortage of government initiatives, there is an urgent need for an accountable, cross departmental unit to join up policy at a national level.

Drawing on interviews, data analysis and a review of current policies, Short-term crisis, long-term problem: Addressing the youth unemployment challenge examines the characteristics of young unemployed people and sets out a detailed agenda for action.

Dr Neil Lee, report author, said: “The government should be addressing youth unemployment as one of its most urgent priorities, yet the response so far has been piecemeal. Youth unemployment is a complex issue. To tackle it, we must ensure that young people have the education and skills they need for the labour market, the incentives to get into work and the necessary knowledge of available opportunities.  At present, the government’s response is split across the Department of Education, BIS and DWP, with nobody responsibility for the big picture. If young people are to get the support they need, these areas must be joined up in a coherent approach.

“It is a particular concern that at present no agency tracks or has responsibility for young people making the onwards transition from school.”

The report calls for the establishment of a Youth Employment Unit along the lines of the Cabinet Office’s Cities Unit. The unit would engage with all relevant third sector bodies and representatives of local government and would be headed by a cross departmental minister with responsibility for youth employment at a national level. The minister would coordinate responses across government and engage with representatives of business and charities.

The report also raises concerns about the number of young people falling outside the system of targeted support. While the Youth Contract is a positive step, much of the support is targeted at those claiming unemployment benefits, yet the report shows that nearly one in three unemployed young people are not claiming such benefits. More needs to be done to bring these young people into the system of support at an earlier stage.

Dr Neil Lee continued: “We want to see the government take this issue in hand. Much of the effort needs to be around long-term unemployed young people. Around 264,000 have now been out of work for over 12 months. Coordinated action is needed to ensure these young people are given the skills, opportunities and information to enter and progress in the labour market.”

The report highlights the urgent need to bring more young people into the support system and argues that engagement and support of the third sector may be the most effective means of doing this. In addition, it recommends a range of measures for helping young people once they are in the system, including pre-apprenticeships and guaranteed part-time jobs after 12 months. It also recommends travel subsidies as a cost effective step to address what for many is a critical barrier to finding work.

The report is the first from The Work Foundation’s Missing Million programme, a two year solutions-focused project aimed at increasing the employment prospects of young people in the UK.


Notes to editors

1. Dr Neil Lee
is available for interviews, briefings and written comment.

2. Short-term crisis, long-term problem: Addressing the youth unemployment challenge is available from the press team in advance or upon publication from

3. The Missing Million programme is sponsored by Barclays, The Learning and Skills Improvement Service, Private Equity Foundation and Trust for London. Views expressed in the report do not necessarily represent the views of sponsors.

4. Barclays is a major global financial services provider engaged in personal banking, credit cards, corporate and investment banking, and wealth and investment management. With over 300 years of history and expertise in banking, Barclays operates in over 50 countries and employs over 140,000 people. Barclays moves, lends, invests and protects money for customers and clients worldwide.

5. The Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) is the sector-led body formed to accelerate quality improvement, increase participation and raise standards and achievement in the Further Education (FE) and Skills sector in England. LSIS is responsible for developing and providing resources that help colleges and providers implement initiatives and improve quality. This is achieved by commissioning products and services, identifying and sharing good practice throughout the system, and providing tailored programmes of support.

6. Private Equity Foundation (PEF) was set up in 2006 to unlock the potential of young people with limited life chances. Its focus is primarily on the NEET issue. There’s no silver bullet so PEF supports children and young people from age four to 24, at home, through school and into the workplace. It provides the very best youth interventions, with funding and pro bono business expertise to help them improve effectiveness and grow. To date, it has changed 60,000 young lives through 19 charities.

7. Trust for London Trust for London is the largest independent funder of projects tackling poverty and inequality in the capital. The Trust makes grants totalling around £7 million per year, supporting around 400 voluntary and community organisations in London at any one time. It was set up in 1891 and was formerly known as City Parochial Foundation. Charity registration number: 205629.

8. The Work Foundation aims to be the leading independent, international authority on work and its future. The Work Foundation is part of Lancaster University – an alliance that enables both organisations to further enhance their impact.

Media enquiries:

Tom Phillips 020 7976 3554

Anna Kharbanda 020 7976 3646