Members of the Lords debated the level of youth unemployment and its social consequences yesterday (Thursday 14 June)
Lord Adonis (Labour), a former spokesperson for schools and learners, opened the debate by talking about the long term affects of unemployment. 'A lost generation is in the making, which could scar Britain for decades to come,' he said. He questioned the minister about incentives for employers to recruit unemployed young people to prepare people for work, improve their literacy and numeracy, provide apprenticeships and to improve the welfare system. He also asked how the work programme is helping the long-term unemployed. 'These are all vital issues... We all have a duty to see that the resources of the state are mobilised,' he said.
Lord Bates (Conservative), a former spokesperson for schools and learners and patron of Tomorrow's People which aims to inspire young unemployed people in north east England to get into work, followed. He argued that '... what we need more than anything else is job opportunities - we need businesses to create more jobs.' He gave examples of how enterprise zones in the north-east helped provide opportunities and the need to make work opportunities, particularly low-paid opportunities, attractive to young people. 'There is absolutely no doubt that more can be done, but my argument is that a lot is being done... There are opportunities out there and we ought to encourage people to realise their dreams and use the full talents that they have been given,' he said.
A former minister of education, Lord McFall of Alcluith (Labour/Co-operative), argued that an active welfare state and education needs to be addressed by the government. He said: 'I suggest that economic progress and social stability go hand in hand and, if we do not tackle youth unemployment with vigour, we are destroying the future not only for young people in this generation but for all society.'
Other concerns aired in the debate included a statutory target for youth unemployment, strengthening the educational and vocational educational systems, movement of labour within the EU and tackling people not in education, employment or training (NEET).
Lord Freud (Conservative) responded on behalf of the government saying: 'We are determined to increase the participation of 16 to 24 year olds in education, training and work to make a lasting difference to individual lives, improve social mobility and stimulate growth.'