Bid to tackle the county’s youth unemployment

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Northumberland is in line for extra support from the Government’s Youth Contract as a newly-designated youth unemployment hotspot.

Last autumn, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg launched the Youth Contract, offering employers a wage subsidy of up to £2,275 to hire young people who have been unemployed for nine months or more.

But last Wednesday, Mr Clegg said: “I can announce today that we will be helping young people in Northumberland with renewed urgency.

“For a simple reason: these are the young people who are hardest to reach, in the labour markets that are hardest to crack and they cannot be made to wait.”

In a speech at the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) Action for Jobs Summit, Mr Clegg announced that in 20 unemployment hotspots, including Northumberland, the subsidy would kick in after six months.

He claimed that three months could make a difference, to avoid ‘another 12 weeks of rejection letters, of being cut off, of sitting at home waiting, worrying’, which can ‘seriously knock the stuffing out of you, making it extremely difficult to pick yourself up’.

And North Northumberland MP Sir Alan Beith has thrown his backing behind the scheme.

“I am delighted that Northumberland has been singled out as a place to give young people extra help to get them into jobs,” he said.

“Finding a job can often be much more difficult for a young person in a rural area where there are limited opportunities and long distances to travel to work.

“So help is much needed, and this is a welcome initiative from the Coalition Government.”

However, the plans haven’t met with unanimous approval with one union describing it as ‘too little, too late’.

Kamaljeet Jandu, GMB equality officer, said: “This is a belated recognition that young workers have been the victims of the deflationary policies of the Coalition Government which stalled the recovery and led to over a million young workers on the dole.

“The Government’s proposals while welcome are too little and too late.”

And the University and College Union (UCU) has warned that investment is needed in education.

UCU president, Kathy Taylor, a former lecturer at Northumberland College, said: “Nick Clegg is right to highlight the issue of youth unemployment in areas like the North East.

“However, words are not enough.

“Only through investing in education for young people will the government be able to alleviate the long-term problem of youth joblessness.”

The wage incentive changes will come into effect at the end of July, and businesses interested in the Youth Contract can visit www.dwp.gov.uk/youth-contract/ or call 0845 601 2001.