The government does not care about young people

Young people don’t care who brings down youth unemployment, ends unpaid work and takes control of the rental sector - we just want a party that cares enough to try

Share

The government is keen to express how much it cares about young people.

In an Opposition Day today, Labour will call on the Coalition to force companies - awarded government contracts over £1 million - to offer apprenticeships to 16-18 year olds. The party quotes (but does not qualify) recent statistics which suggest the number of apprenticeships are actually down 9,200 from the same point last year.

The government will probably counter it is doing everything it can to help young people back into work already, and no doubt never miss the opportunity to attack Labour’s economic record as the problem in the first place.

But while the government and the opposition lock horns over semantics and hyperbole in the warm cocoon of the Commons chamber, young people continue to struggle through their unpaid work experience placements everywhere from Poundland to Parliament itself. They face choosing whether to pay down their mounting debt, cover rent or heating bills and generally wonder whether it will ever get better.

Enter Shaun Bailey. He is a London-based youth worker and Special Adviser to the Conservative party on youth and crime. His job is to give the Tories the best research and advice on its youth policy. He is no doubt a great advocate of young people’s rights and opportunities but it comes at a price.

Writing for the Independent immediately before the General Election in 2010 where he stood as the Conservative candidate for Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush he said: “The development of a whole generation is being stunted. They will enter work much later, if at all, and the longer they spend out of work the less they are developing personally.”

He blamed this on the rise of welfare dependency amongst young people and said during the last recession people were more willing to depend on the state as they had done previously.

Since his appointment, Bailey has been incredibly critical about the Coalition policies such as police cuts, the cuts to youth services and the attempted cut to housing benefit for under 25s. But one thing he has always remained silent on is the culture of unpaid work that blights the relationship between young people and their prospective employers.

This ambivalence is perhaps why he decided to advertise for an unpaid intern to work on a community project. The role would involve working three to four days a week in central London with ‘some’ unspecified expenses.

A spokesperson for Mr Bailey said the entire project was volunteer led and he himself was not taking a salary: “We called the role an internship because we hope to be able to teach the successful candidate a number of skills, such as policy analysis, that are rarely taught to young people just starting their careers.

“Over the course of this short internship, we also hope to develop their professional networks and help mentor them in their future career choices.”

Now a non-profit community project which, presumably, will do good for young people, is not on the same scale of abuse as work experience placements stacking shelves in Poundland or becoming a general lackey for profit making companies, but it is still effectively condoning it.

If you can’t afford staff and want to get young people involved in the project fine, but there are better ways to go about it. Instead of taking on one person to work full time, take on four to work one day and call them ‘volunteers’. Or even take on eight to work half a day per week.

An internship is a loaded term demonstrating it is preparation for employment. A volunteer gets involved out of the goodness of their own heart; they do it for the personal rather than professional reward.

Mounting debt, being unable to pay the rent and an over-reliance on the state are only symptoms of this wider problem. Every major political party’s position on youth unemployment seems to be nonsensical.

They want more young people in work and off benefits but think this can be achieved with unpaid work. This represents a massive disconnection with the realities of everyday life or even common sense.

If employers don’t have to pay their staff, they won’t. If their staff does not earn money they need to get money from somewhere and are forced onto the mercy of the state. If the Coalition is serious about making work pay they should not be advertising for work that doesn’t pay. 

You can’t pay your landlord in skills and experience.

The Bradford West byelection last year was a profound shock to the political establishment, far more so than any UKIP upsurge in Eastleigh. While UKIP was an older, middle class protest vote, the swing in Bradford towards Respect demonstrated young people could no longer be prevailed upon to vote among the ‘clan’ lines of their parents and grandparents.

Young people don’t care who brings down youth unemployment, ends unpaid work and takes control of the rental sector. We just want a party that cares enough to do that and from the poor showing of the current cohort, it doesn’t look like that will be happening any time soon.

The Liberal Democrats betrayed us. UKIP and Respect remain charisma-led protest parties with stunt policies. The Greens only have one policy. Labour merely use us as a stick to beat Cameron with at PMQs and attract a stronger showing in their city constituency strongholds. Conservatives see us as problem to be contained and ‘dealt with’; their association of youth issues with crime reduction rather than unemployment reduction speaks volumes.

The government and its opposition don’t care about young people; they only care about their parliamentary majorities. So it’s time for young people to stand up and say so.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Recruitment Genius: Project Administrator

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Administrator is requ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
MP David Lammy would become the capital’s first black mayor if he won the 2016 Mayoral election  

Crime, punishment and morals: we’re entering a maze with no clear exit

Simon Kelner
 

The two most important parts of Obama’s legacy could be on the brink of collapse, and this time there's no back-up plan

David Usborne
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn