COBRA-style action needed to save young people

The Local Government Association has said that today’s young people face becoming a ‘lost generation’ unless the government develops a COBRA-style response to boost skills and job opportunities.

The LGA said this should include appointing a new Youth Minister to lead government efforts to tackle youth unemployment. Since the crisis began, youth unemployment has risen significantly, with the latest ONS figures showing that the percentage of young people (aged 16-24) unemployed has risen to 13.4 per cent. It has been estimated that a further 600,000 16-24-year olds could find themselves unemployed by the end of this year.

In a new report, the LGA said the current coronavirus crisis has turned ‘a bad situation into a dire one’ for young people. It sets out the immediate government action needed in the Spending Review to tackle the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on young people.

Councils and combined authorities are already working closely with employers, colleges and many others involved in education and job-training to try and ensure nobody is left behind after we get through this crisis. However, they are hamstrung by a national employment and skills system that is increasingly centralised and ineffective.

The government needs to use the Spending Review to devolve careers advice, post-16 and skills budgets and powers to local areas, which in turn would allow councils, schools, colleges and employers to work together to improve provision for young people so that they can get on in life. They are ideally placed to bring employment and skills initiatives together.

The LGA is also calling for the government to work in partnership with councils and combined authorities to plan, co-ordinate and deliver the Kickstart Scheme and grant apprenticeship flexibilities to increase the number of young people who can benefit from schemes.

Kevin Bentley, Chair of the LGA’s People and Places Board, said: “We have yet to see the real impact of the Covid-19 crisis on young people. But the unemployment crisis that many of our young people now face has become even more starkly apparent. Councils want to ensure every young person realises their full potential. Without action to address our fragmented national employment support system, we risk creating a lost generation of young people.

“It is vital that young people have the opportunities to increase their skills and retrain and no-one is left behind. This means providing the right careers advice and guidance, and holistic support needed for every young person. Local government is best placed to lead on this. Devolving careers advice, post-16 and skills budgets and powers to local areas, would allow councils, schools, colleges and employers to work together to improve provision for young people so that they can get on in life.”