Karen Buck MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Young People, in response to today’s publication of the Department for Education’s ‘Positive for Youth’ Strategy, said:
“Any additional support for young people would be welcome, but today’s strategy for young people is nothing more than a rehash of previous announcements to mask the cuts the Tory-led Government is making to youth services and support to help young people get jobs, training or advice. We need a serious strategy to help young people in the long term. This is about the next generation doing better than the previous one. The Government’s short term approach is kicking the ladder of opportunity away for a generation of young people who aspire to do better.
“The strategy is nothing more than spin. Today, Labour reveal the truth behind the Government’s hype.
“The strategy says, ‘many young people are also concerned about local services as councils face difficult decisions, and charities struggle to sustain provision.’ And yet the Government is cutting funding for youth services in councils, and now admit that their over-hyped Big Society plans will fail to fill the gap.
“The strategy says the Government ‘is raising the age to which young people must participate in education or training to 17 in 2013 and 18 in 2015 to help prepare them for adult life and employment,’ and yet the Government has abolished the Educational Maintenance Allowance which would help young people to stay in education.
“The strategy says the Government will ‘address youth unemployment’ yet it has abolished the Future Jobs Fund, local authority funding for face to face careers advice and the Connexions service at a time when over a million young people are not in work, education or training.
“The strategy says the Government is ‘targeting Apprenticeships more on young adults’, and yet figures from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills published in the Guardian show that fewer than 7% of the new places for the Academic Year 2010-11 have gone to 16- 18 year olds. The number of new apprentices under 25 accounted for just 16% of the figures for this year. That’s just one in six new apprentices at a time when youth unemployment is almost one million.
“The strategy says it will ‘ensure that every young person can experience the excitement and benefits of competitive sport’ and yet it slashed £162m from the school sport budget by abolishing the School Sports Partnership. It is no wonder that recent figures from Sport England showed a drop in the number of 16-19 year olds playing sport.
“The Government assure us of their support for the youth service whilst presiding over its decimation in many parts of the country. One of the most common complaints MPs ever hear is concern about teenagers ‘hanging round, with nothing to do’, and sometimes getting into trouble. Whether we look at youth services as an extension of early intervention - supporting vulnerable young people at a point of maximum risk- or as a diversion from anti-social behaviour, or as a means of enriching young lives, we need something more than just warm words”