Evening Standard - Young on benefits soars by half in only five years

Friday, 12 January, 2007

A FIFTY per cent rise in the number of unemployed teenagers in London is revealed today.

The increase in welfare dependency over five years brought calls for a rethink of Gordon Brown's flagship policies to get young Britons into work.

Despite much-trumpeted falls in the national jobless total, the number of young people on benefits through unemployment or disability is soaring.

The rise seems to contradict indicators that show the economy is booming and the health of the workforce is better than ever.

According to the government figures:

l Incapacity benefit claims among Londoners aged 16 to 25 went up by over half from 11,820 in November 2000 to 18,190 last May.

l Claims for Jobseeker's Allowance leapt by almost 50 per cent over the same period, from 29,320 to 42,960.

It comes at a time when industry is pleading for more migrant workers.

The Conservatives said the figures were an indictment of the Chancellor's welfare-to-work strategy.

Shadow welfare reform minister David Ruffley said: 'Gordon Brown owes London's young people an apology. It is a tragedy that they are being condemned to a life of economic inactivity, a waste of the talent, energy and enthusiasm.'

He said the New Deal was proving a 'costly failure' because it had not tackled dependency and put 'shockingly low' numbers into lasting jobs.

Out of 138,270 who went through the scheme in five years, only 52,050 found jobs that lasted more than 13 weeks. Out of 5,020 disabled participants, a third found jobs while 3,480 went back on to benefits.

Tim Cooper, managing director of the Shaw Trust, which helps disadvantaged young people into work, said the increase coincided with an unusual rise in the total number nationally. He praised the New Deal but said: 'It is no longer working for certain groups.'

London has particular problems because of the high cost of living he said.

Jim Murphy, minister for employment and welfare reform, said: ' David Ruffley doesn't know what he is talking about.

'The most recent figures show that more than 97,000 young people found work through the New Deal in London, almost double the number Mr Ruffley claims.

'The number claiming unemployment benefit in London has fallen by more than a quarter under this government and 33,000 more 16- to 24-year-olds are in work. In the past year, we have seen a 2.5 per cent fall in the number of 16- to 24-year-olds claiming incapacity benefit.'