Talent is not harnessed, but shackled

26th March 2004 at 00:00
You are right to highlight how the "lost generation" continues to be failed by current legislation (TES, March 12).

Indeed, Centrepoint research shows that more than a third of the young people presenting themselves as homeless at our services have no qualifications at all. The reality is that in addition to housing problems, the majority of new Centrepoint users will also face financial barriers to education. Either the benefits system will work against them staying in education or the cost of college will prove prohibitive without family support. They want to learn but they can't.

Michael, a resident at our Berwick Street hostel, was 18 when he was told to leave home. Despite this he continues to study for an NVQ in graphic design but will soon be forced to leave his course. Why? Because he turns 19 this April and must claim Jobseeker's Allowance, for which he is required to be actively seeking work.

As Mr Blair rightly says, we must "harness the talents of our young people", so why does the system force Michael into a dead-end job two months before his college course ends?

Anthony Lawton Chief executive Centrepoint Neil House 7 Whitechapel Road London E1

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