Jobs fund axe 'will leave support gap'

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The Independent Online

The Government was today warned that its decision to end a jobs fund a year early will lead to unemployed young people facing a potential gap in the support available to help them find work.

A committee of MPs made 23 recommendations after studying the plan to end the £1 billion Future Jobs Fund next March, stressing that proper transitional arrangements should be put in place to support young people who were looking for jobs.

The Work and Pensions Committee said it was concerned that referrals to the fund will end next spring, leaving a gap until June when the new Work Programme will be launched.

MPs also called for increased funding for apprenticeships, especially to help young people who lacked skills and work experience.

Committee chairman Anne Begg (Labour, Aberdeen South) said: "Young people, especially those who may be lacking skills, experience and confidence, need appropriate and sometimes intensive support to find work, otherwise they risk falling into long-term unemployment which is known to have a continued impact on their life chances. Providing this support is even more important during these difficult economic times.

"The committee is concerned about the potential gap in help for young unemployed people following the decision to end the Future Jobs Fund a year early. We are also concerned that the new Work Programme may not be fully available in all areas of the country from next June.

"Our report calls on the Government to address these issues and ensure that appropriate provision is in place for all unemployed young people."

The Future Jobs Fund was launched by the previous Labour Government to respond to a rise in youth unemployment in 2008 and 2009 and was used to fund temporary jobs, mainly for 18 to 24-year-olds who had been out of work for over six months.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Douglas Alexander said: "Last week under pressure from Labour the government finally u-turned and accepted the principle that leaving people with no support before the work programme started would be an expensive mistake.

"But sadly they still seem determined to scrap the Future Jobs Fund which will hit young people struggling to find work.

"Next year is going to be a crucial year for jobs but this government risks removing support at exactly the wrong time."

Helen Donohoe, Action for Children's director of public policy, said: "The end of the Future Jobs Fund is yet another blow to the hopes and prospects of the most vulnerable young people.

"Following the end of the Child Trust Fund for children in care and the likely abolition of the EMA, Action for Children is gravely concerned about the impact of withdrawing support focused on employment when it is needed most.

"As ever, the most vulnerable young people face the greatest challenges. Those we work with, including care leavers, teenagers with disabilities and teenage parents, would like to know what provision will be made to support them in getting work between the end of the Future Jobs Fund and the start of the Work Programme."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "The Future Jobs Fund is expensive and the Government believes that its increased apprenticeships programme is a much better way of getting young people into sustainable employment.

"Unemployed young people will get high quality support through the Work Programme which will be available nationwide by next summer.

"We are also working with providers to extend referrals to existing provision to ensure that customers referred to these programmes in March will be supported until the summer, when the Work Programme will be rolled out."