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


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

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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
With an eye for strategy: Stephen Fry’s General Melchett and Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder  

What Cameron really needs is to turn this into a khaki election

Matthew Norman
An Italian policeman stands guard as migrants eat while waiting at the port of Lampedusa to board a ferry bound for Porto Empedocle in Sicily. Authorities on the Italian island of Lampedusa struggled to cope with a huge influx of newly-arrived migrants as aid organisations warned the Libya crisis means thousands more could be on their way  

Migrant boat disaster: EU must commit funds to stop many more dying

Alistair Dawber
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own