OFF THE FENCE
Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to and about young people in my constituency.
A couple of weeks ago, a visit to Connexions in Fareham was followed by Question Time at Portchester Community School. A week later, I was quizzed by members of the Student Council at Fareham College, having met the head of Cams Hill School, David Wilmot, earlier that day.
Many of the young people I met had high hopes for their future. They knew their qualifications would open the door to their future, but I also heard about some of the challenges faced by those who hadn’t succeeded at school.
Whilst the vast majority will achieve their hopes and dreams, for some life is difficult. Recent figures give a flavour of the challenges our young people face.
A total of 300,000 young people who have left school or college since 2007 have never held down a job, but then 200,000 who left between 2002 and 2006 haven’t either. And there are still 100,000 who left school or college between 1997 and 2002 who haven’t held down a job.
These are truly shocking figures. Even when the economy was booming, youth unemployment was a real challenge. Whilst student fees and the education maintenance allowance tend to dominate the headlines, we cannot forget those who have been through the education system but are still without jobs.
Welfare reform is vital if we are to get these young people into work. Unlike the New Deal, our work programme will give people the support needed to get into work.
Those who run the work programme will be rewarded for success and not paid to go through the motions. We will also make sure work pays with the introduction of the universal credit in 2016. You will always be better off working than staying on benefits.
We need these reforms if people are going to gain the dignity and self-esteem that comes from work. It will also help all of our young people to realise their full potential.