Nearly half a million 'hidden' young people left without state help to survive and find work, ministers warned
The alarm has been raised over a staggering number of “hidden jobless” who have “fallen off the government radar”, despite promises of intensive support to achieve their potential.
The new research has found that 480,000 16- to 24-year-olds are missing out on both benefits and advice – no less than 60 per cent of the official total of young jobless.
Strikingly, many of them have good job prospects, boasting impressive GCSE qualifications and having continued with their education beyond 16.
A senior MP has now demanded answers from ministers, while campaigners are urging the government to let them plug the gap where the state is failing young people.
Frank Field, the chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, told The Independent: “It seems as though a small army of unemployed young people have fallen through the gaps in the safety net without any official data recording whether they are destitute.
“If we are to prevent them from being consigned to a life of unemployment and poverty, a first move must involve gathering accurate data on which young people are without either a job or an income, so they can then receive appropriate support.”
Kirsty McHugh, the chief executive of ERSA, the body representing groups providing employment support, said: “It’s shocking that thousands of young people have fallen off the government radar and are not accessing the support they need to launch into the world of work.”
The huge tally of neglected young people “buried in unemployment statistics” has been uncovered by the group London Youth, which mined labour force survey data across the UK.
It compared the numbers of young people not in education, employment or training (Neet) (790,000) with the much lower total recorded as claiming benefits – estimating the difference at 480,000 across a 12-month period.
London Youth has calculated that the Treasury would enjoy a £440m annual boost to tax revenues if they were all helped into full-time work.
It is seeking an urgent meeting with Anne Milton, the skills minister – to press her to both record the problem “properly” and to fund charities and community groups to take on the task of solving it.
Rosemary Watt-Wyness, London Youth’s chief executive, said its Talent Match London programme had worked with 2,200 jobless young people – many of them “hidden” – with scores of other groups available to do the same.
“There is a fantastic opportunity for these organisations to provide good careers advice, training and support so these young people understand what they need to do to move into the world of work.
“Those Neets who are not accessing statutory support are all too easy to ignore as they don’t affect claimant counts, welfare budgets and are buried within unemployment statistics.”
Ms Watt-Wyness pointed out that the claimant count could be going down – while the number of hidden young people was actually on the rise.
Its research found that many young people stayed away from job centres after “hearing stories from others who had been sanctioned, or experienced delays to receiving their payments, and the financial hardship this caused”.
“Young people described the process as ‘jumping through hoops for nothing’. Taking all of this into consideration, many young people decided that they would ‘rather not bother’,” its study said.
Job centres also demanded a passport or driving licence as proof of identity and a bank statement or utilities bill as proof of address – which some young people struggled to provide.
Few who joined Talent Match London after being “hidden” had a criminal conviction and no more than the jobless young people who were claiming benefits.
But, left without state support, some fell under “the influence of gang culture, drug use or drug dealing”, London Youth found.
A government spokesman declined to address the issues raised by the London Youth study and did not dispute the figures within it.
Instead, he said: “Youth unemployment has fallen by over 40 per cent since 2010, almost nine out of 10 young people are now in education, employment or training and the government has invested around £7bn in 2017-18 to increase opportunities for young people.
“As the prime minister announced in March, the government is also working with Big Lottery on proposals for a £90m programme funded by dormant bank accounts which will aim to address youth unemployment and support young people facing complex barriers to work.”
The government’s key policy to cut joblessness among the young is the “youth obligation”, introduced in April last year.
All 18- to 21-year-olds are promised “intensive support” from job centre advisers on putting in applications and interview techniques.
If they refuse to take a job, apprenticeship, traineeship or work experience after six months they can be stripped of their benefits.Rob Merrick, The Independent