Employment minister Andrew Smith fleshes out plans to get young people off welfare and into work. Ngaio Crequer reports
The Government is to ensure that 17-year-olds will not be edged out of jobs by 18 to 24-year-olds made more attractive to employers because of the Pounds 60-a-week Welfare -to-Work bounty on their heads.
Andrew Smith, minister for employment, immediately concurred with a proposal from Richard Guy, chief executive of Manchester Training and Enterprise Council, to set up a working group on the issue.
Young unemployed people aged 18 to 24 will be offered an option of work with an employer, and the firm will be offered Pounds 60 a week to take them on. But many are concerned that 18 to 24-year-olds will get taken on because of the financial inducement, and younger people will miss out.
Mr Guy, speaking at the TEC National Council annual conference in Birmingham described long-term unemployment as an evil which led to social apartheid. "The displacement of the 16 to 18-year-olds will cause real problems. They have no significant subsidy and there are no answers in sight. I suggest a group be set up to deal with this very dangerous issue before New Deal goes live."
He said the initiative must not be allowed to fail and it could change the social fabric of the nation.
Training and enterprise councils had formerly shied away from schemes with sanctions but they supported the New Deal as a "transforming initiative", he said.
Mr Guy said the full-time education option should not be confined to a particular group of people but should be available to those who wanted to upgrade their skills. It should be a skills strategy, not just an employment strategy. "There is a belief that those who fail in education cannot succeed in training and that must be contradicted, " he said.