Clegg’s £1 billion youth contract “Too little too late”

Nick Clegg’s £1 billion youth contract is “Too little too late”, claims the leader of a Medway youth organisation.

Graham Clewes, Chief Executive of the Medway Youth Trust, said Nick Clegg’s £1 billion youth contract, aimed at getting young people into employment, is too little too late: “The programme isn’t due to start until April – we could have done with that kind of support last April.”

National youth unemployment has reached 1.02 million overall, the worst level since 1992, while an estimated 23.1% of 18 to 24 year-olds in Medway are classified as NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training). Mr Clewes said proposals outlined today by the deputy prime minister are: “A small dent in unemployment: 160,000 over three years is only about 50,000 a year.”

He is sceptical about the lack of information released and said the devil’s in the detail: “Political announcements are exactly that, they’re political announcements.”

He warned there’s a danger in thinking one-size fits all with regards to finding people a job and work experience, one of the key elements in Clegg’s youth contract, is not enough on its own.

Medway Youth Trust offers a range of advice to young people, including careers, health and housing advice, as well as a similar service for young adults. Their largest centre in Chatham deals with some 600 to 800 people per month.

Medway resident Gavin McLean, 19 and with a daughter on the way, was unemployed for four years after leaving school at the age of 15. Unable to get a job he said he said he was just “hanging on the streets. Nothing to do, getting into trouble, gangs”.

He said gangs are a big part of life growing up in Medway: “They say gangs, but it’s just big groups of friends…then you get into trouble, through boredom and neglect mainly.”

Last September Mr Mclean started working at the Marks & Spencer’s store at the Medway Dockside Centre, thanks to support he received from the Connexions scheme run by Medway Youth Trust. Initially in touch with the scheme through school, he later received a phone call and was offered a place on their programme and said he hasn’t looked back since:

“During the 12 week programme I got two weeks work experience at Marks and Spencer’s and I worked so hard they asked me to come back. I wouldn’t have been able to have done it without the help of Medway Youth Trust.

“Look at me, gangs and stuff…not in a 100 years would I walk into Marks & Spencer’s and get a job, let alone at the corner shop…and I was given a chance and it was brilliant.”

He highlights work experience alone is not enough to get a job and says without qualifications, a CV or the knowledge about how to present yourself when looking for work, you don’t even stand a chance: “You walk in there, no one will give you the time of day, they just think they can get someone with higher qualifications, no matter how you behave.”

Mr Clewes said there is some concern over the degree of support available to young people in Medway over the age of 19. Only 7% of 16 to 19 year-olds in Medway are classified as NEET, compared with 16.1% 20 to 24 year-olds.

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