Nick Clegg MP writes: We won’t let a generation fall behind

Having risen steadily since 2004, the number of unemployed young people hit the one million mark this month.

One million. One in five 16-24 year olds not in education, training or work, not because they are lazy or feckless, but because of factors well beyond their control.

It’s not good enough. Youth unemployment is an economic waste and a slow-burn social disaster.

We can’t afford to leave our young men and women on the scrap heap. We need the next generation to help us build a new economy.

When we chose to form this Coalition Government, Liberal Democrats knew that we would have to fix some big problems – the economy; the benefits system; the gap between the richest and poorest in our society.

And we’ve done a lot in a short space of time, to stop the economy falling off a cliff; to cut taxes for working people; to make sure work always pays; and to tackle the lack of social mobility in our country.

As I said in my Conference speech, we are doing these things not because they are easy, but because they are right. We chose to govern in the national interest and we will continue to do so.

But we haven’t done enough to help those young people who leave school and find there are no jobs, no opportunities and very little hope.

Today we are changing that. We won’t allow the children brought up in the boom to bear the brunt of the bust. We won’t sit on our hands and let a generation fall behind.

We are offering young people a new deal and we are putting our money where our mouth is – nearly a billion pounds in total.

The Youth Contract I am announcing today is to get every unemployed young person working or learning again before long-term damage is done.

The offer includes:

  • At least 410,000 new work places for 18 to 24 year olds into work over three years, starting next April.
  • 160,000 wage subsidies worth half the youth minimum wage – £2,275 – for six months, available to those who need the most help after three months and to all young people who have been on Jobseeker’s Allowance after nine months.
  • 250,000 new work experience placements lasting up to eight weeks.
  • At least 20,000 more incentive payments to encourage employers to take on young apprentices.
  • All 18 to 24 year olds will receive extra support from JobCentre Plus after they have been on Jobseeker’s Allowance for three months.
  • A new £50m programme to help the most disengaged 16 and 17 year olds – getting them back to school or college, onto an apprenticeship or into a job with training.

We know that being cut adrift at the crucial point when you enter the employment market can have a scarring effect. Long periods out of work now can leave young people facing lower wages for the next two decades.

But young people have to meet us halfway. If you break your side of the bargain, don’t just expect to live your life on benefits. It’s a contract, a two-way street: if you sign up for the job, there will be no signing on for the dole. You have to stick with it.

Liberal Democrats did not create the conditions that have left so many young people in limbo – Labour left us not only with a devastated economy but a situation where youth unemployment had been steadily rising every year since long before the financial crash – but it falls to us to put it right.

Everybody knows there is very little money to go around and that means we have to spend what we have as wisely as possible.

I believe that investing in giving young people a chance to find their feet in the world of work, giving them vital experience, confidence and hope, is the right thing to do.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • I saw the Deputy PM’s interview on BBC News this morning, in which he said that these were jobs that last because they are private sector jobs. Sorry to be a nit-picker, but that is not what the private sector is about; growth in the private sector is reckoned primarily by financial health, and employment numbers do not always coincide with it. It is not the private sector’s role to provide training or job placements but to maintain profitability and shareholder value – any follower of Friedman would be happy to point this out.

  • I refer the gentleman to the answer I gave some moments ago….

    Let us be clear the announcement by Clegg today on a £1b fund to be given to any employer who takes on an unemployed employee between the ages of 18-24 is simply corporatism at its finest.

    Are we letting Tesco / Poundstretcher and Asda write the legislation?

    All this is is a direct £1b subsidy to large businesses who are already taking advantage of the “work experience” scheme to get free staff.

    I despair of the corporate takeover of all 3 major political parties.

  • I see Clegg is in a bit of trouble with the Speaker after he broke Parliamentary rules and announced these plans to the nation instead of the House first. Is it too much to ask that the politicians who lecture us all about playing by the rules do the same themselves?

  • Foregone Conclusion 25th Nov '11 - 8:03pm

    @mike cobley: the primary aim of the public sector isn’t to provide jobs either though. It’s to provide quality public services, efficiently.

  • Giving taxpayers money to corporations to ’employ’ people they don’t need will destroy any chance of real growth and hamper any recovery in useful employment. I thought the underwriting of 95% mortgages was the most insane government project I’d come across in my lifetime. It has been surpassed within a couple of days.

  • Starting in April????? Almost 6 months away.

    BTW, Nick, this £1B was found……. a) Down the back of George Osborne’s sofa b) By reducing ‘Bankers’ bonuses c) By reducing tax-credits?

  • Tony Greaves 25th Nov '11 - 10:32pm

    The starkest part of the TV coverage of all this today is just how nasty and crabby and useless the Labour Party have become.

    The gaping hole in the coverage is the extent to which this new policy announcement is a victory for the Liberal Democrats in the government against the Tories who realloy don’t like it much (or at all). But don’t expect the lazy media (most of all the BBC) to understand such things!

    Tony Greaves

  • ……………………..this new policy announcement is a victory for the Liberal Democrats in the government against the Tories………..
    Really? Were it to be paid for by a demand to close tax avoidance loopholes, etc. one might imagine ruffled Tory feathers. However, ‘Robbing Peter, to pay Paul’ ( when both are members of the poorest in society) doesn’t strike me as a ‘victory’.

    I also notice how, since the coalition, some LibDems have taken up repeating the “Old Tory” mantra of ‘BBC bias’

  • Another massive u turn by this incompetent, anti-working class government. First they cut the public sector to the bone and abolished the Labour’s excellent job creation scheme, the future jobs fund, and replaced it with er . .. nothing. Surprise, surprise, youth unemployment soared. What do they do now? Panic and hand millions and millions to builders and other bosses. They couldn’t get rid of the fifty pence tax rate for them so they are shoving money into their pockets another way. All to be paid for from the meagre benefits of the poor and low paid of course.

  • Daniel Henry 26th Nov '11 - 10:23am

    MacK, C4’s fact checker suggests that this is a significant improvement over Labour’s scheme:

  • Daniel Henry Posted 26th November 2011 at 10:23 am
    MacK, C4′s fact checker suggests that this is a significant improvement over Labour’s scheme.

    Really? Verbatim from your link….

    The verdict

    Comparing the Youth Contract to the Future Jobs Fund is a smart move, because the FJF was an emergency quick fix that barely got off the ground before it was axed, and for which there is very little cost-benefit analysis kicking around to judge it on.

    That said, Mr Clegg is spot on about its failings – and today’s deal offers very definite improvements, particularly concerning the private sector.

    But to hail it as a “very big new initiative” is somewhat stretching the truth. It’s not new, it’s a shot in the arm for three key schemes that have already been announced – and which were around in some form under Labour’s New Deal.

    One crucial element of the New Deal was the push in 2009 to keep 16-17 year olds in education and training. Does today’s deal do enough for these ‘NEETs’ (not in education, employment or training)?

    Not really, says the children’s charity Barnardos. For only around 10 per cent of 16-17 year olds are eligible for benefits, and therefore eligible for the Work Programme.

    Finally, concerns over where this £1bn was plucked from remain. Will the government push its “bold decision” to raid the benefits pot? We’ll be scouring the Autumn Statement next week for the answer

    Sounds more like “Wait and See” than a “very big new initiative”

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