‘We need to find jobs for young people’

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THE problems facing Leigh Park were given national exposure when a grandmother-of-five took to the podium of the Liberal Democrat conference.

Faith Ponsonby said youth unemployment was one of the biggest problems facing the estate as she addressed 500 people at the conference in Brighton.

The former Leigh Park councillor said the country was ‘in danger of failing a generation’.

She told delegates: ‘I am passionate about this community and know how tough things are for them at the moment. Speaking to families there, they tell me of their children leaving school and being unable to find a job.

‘If they do find a job, it may be part-time, and the hours limited so that they no longer reach the minimum 24 hours to qualify for working tax credits.

‘There are families in this ward who have never had regular employment.’

Mrs Ponsonby, who lives in Emsworth, was supporting a party motion that includes creating more apprenticeship opportunities for young people.

Mrs Ponsonby said that training agencies – which provide courses to get young people into jobs – need to provide good training that instils a life-long work ethic.

Mrs Ponsonby, who began her working career in a Rowntree’s chocolate factory, said: ‘Recently I was told of a young girl attending the Job Centre who was then told she had to sign up for a particular full-time job for a year for pay of less than £3 an hour; if she did not take this she would lose her Jobseekers Allowance.

‘As well as extending OFSTED in schools to look at wider aspects of employability and life skills, we need to ensure that the training agencies are also providing the appropriate encouragement into work.’

Mrs Ponsonby intended to praise the work of Park Community School in raising aspirations on the estate, but ran out of time.

Afterwards she told The News: ‘I wanted to put this across. I am passionate about Leigh Park.’