Young people who have been furloughed before being made redundant, or out of work for six months, would be guaranteed training, education or work placements geared to the needs of the post-pandemic economy, under ambitious plans unveiled on Sunday by Labour.
The pledge to youngsters, whose progress in the jobs market has been blighted by Covid-19, comes as party analysis of House of Commons library figures suggests that more than one million people will become “long-term unemployed” (out of work for more than a year) during 2021 and 2022. The data also suggests that 660,000 16- to 24-year-olds will reach a point where they have spent six months out of work, education or training during the same period, at what they hoped would be the start of their working lives.
Announcing Labour’s new plan before this week’s budget, the shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds said that “without immediate action” the UK would find it had created “a lost generation that will put Britain’s recovery at risk”.
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He said government schemes, such as Kickstart and Restart, which are aimed at helping young people into work and preventing long-term unemployment, were too complex and not geared to providing jobs in sectors relevant to the specific challenges of society in the 2020s.
As the well as offering guarantees to those aged 16 to 24, under the Labour plan no one above the age of 24 would have to be involuntarily away from work or training for more than 12 months, at which point they, too, would be assured a place in training, education or a job placement, whether this were an apprenticeship or other position.
Again, any period an individual had spent on furlough prior to losing their job would be counted towards the 12-month qualification period.
Reynolds told the Observer that the plans could be delivered and paid for by simplifying and bringing forward £4.5bn of spending on government job schemes that he said had failed to deliver on their objectives.
Labour has already demanded that the government put unspent funds from its apprenticeship levy towards a wage subsidy that could create 85,000 new apprenticeships.
Anyone who had been made redundant from furlough would be guaranteed instant access to job-finding support through a work coach without the need to claim social security.
A government spokesperson said: “This Conservative government will take no lessons from the Labour party on getting people back into work.
“The Kickstart scheme has created more than 120,000 jobs for young people in less than six months.”
Recent Institute for Employment Studies analysis showed there will be 175,000 Restart places created by the end of December 2021 yet 275,000 people will have reached twelve months of unemployment on Universal Credit by that time.