The impact of the Youth Obligation on disadvantaged young people

On the 16th May Centrepoint launched their research report on The impact of the youth obligation on disadvantaged young people.

The government’s flagship youth unemployment programme came into force in April 2017 aiming to provide unemployed 18 to 21 year olds who are making  a new Universal Credit claim with intensive support to help them find a job.

On paper Youth Obligation appears to be a well constructed programme. Young people are supported with a series of workshops and exercises designed to improve their work readiness and job searching skills. At the same time they receive personalised coaching and support to help them with individual needs and challenges. After this period if the young person has not moved on into employment or training they are offered sector-based work placements or encouraged to take up traineeships. During the programme there are supposed to be a range of easement points available to the coach, if young participants find that they have significant barriers to accessing employment such as homelessness, caring issues etc.

Youth Employment UK and its members were consulted by DWP ahead of the launch of the Youth Obligation and have been keen to see how the programme has been rolled out nationally.

Monitoring the impact of the Youth Obligation has been challenging, DWP do not have data measuring the effectiveness of the programme and there is currently no data collected by the Department on outcomes of the scheme, nor on referrals or placements during the scheme. Read more here on this from The Work and Pensions Committee.

Youth Employment UK itself has received information from young people about the effectiveness (both experienced and perceived) of the programme. In the 2019 Youth Voice Census only 14% of the respondents who had spent time NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) had applied for help through Jobcentres, with satisfaction levels of those receiving support low. Alongside this Youth Employment UK supported a project with Greater Manchester Talent Match where young people looked to work with local Jobcentres to improve the information and support available to young people.

Youth Employment UK therefore welcomed the work of Centrepoint who, concerned with the impact of the Youth Obligation on young vulnerable people lead a longitudinal research study with the University of Warwick.

The report From Obligation to Opportunity: The impact of the Youth Obligation on disadvantaged young people found that:

  1. Some of the most vulnerable young people are dropping out of the benefits system
  2. Sanctioning rates are higher for young people on the Youth Obligation
  3. Many young people are not getting the work placement
  4. Only 1/4 of young people were in work 12 months on from the start of their Youth Obligation journey

Laura-Jane Rawlings, CEO of Youth Employment UK said; “I was really pleased to be invited to attend the launch of this important report and to join the panel discussion. The findings should be a concern to us all, the benefit system is the last opportunity for government to support the most vulnerable people in society and it is clear to see that in the case of young disadvantaged people they are being failed. With the too high drop out rates the question has to be asked where have those young people gone, is it as Centrepoint and some of the other panellist suggest that those young people have become homeless or have taken up informal types of work, which we know have a negative impact on the individual and of course on the economy?

It is frustrating to hear that some of the biggest challenges of the Youth Obligation are on the quality of information and support that is given to the operational staff, and that there are so many inconsistencies with the offer from one Jobcentre to another. There has been some great practice established which we have seen with centres such as MyGo and some individual jobcentre services themselves. This best practice should become the norm for all service users and it is the duty of DWP to ensure this.

We fully support the recommendations in the report and call on the Department to act swiftly to avoid more young people falling through the gaps.”




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