Jobless young people ‘shafted’ by coronavirus are not receiving enough help, Ruth Davidson tells Boris Johnson

Future Tory peer says short-term work placements are not enough - urging PM to repay young ‘for their sacrifices’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 05 January 2021 11:35
Boris Johnson announces a new national lockdown in England

Young people have been “shafted” by Covid-19 and the government is not providing enough help to find good jobs, Ruth Davidson has told Boris Johnson.

The temporary Tory leader in the Scottish Parliament joined critics of the Kickstart scheme, warning that – offering only six-month placements, with “basic” training – it was not up to the job.

She also criticised restrictions on Universal Credit payments for trainees and branded the handling of school exams, now cancelled in England, a “debacle”.

Pointing to London’s youth unemployment rate of more than 25 per cent, Ms Davidson warned: “Left unchecked, the situation is expected to worsen.”

And, calling for the young to be offered “good jobs with good prospects”, she said: “They have borne much of the cost of this pandemic already and will be the generation upon whose shoulders repairing the public finances will disproportionately fall.

“Now is not the time to scrimp on repaying them for their sacrifices.”

In an article for The Daily Telegraph, Ms Davidson – soon to become a Conservative peer – said young adults “have sacrificed most of all”.

“Across the UK, the ways in which young people have been shafted have been particularly cruel,” she wrote.

“And it isn't just about school closures, the exam debacle and university lock-ins. The world of work for young adults has been perilous, too.”

Pointing to redundancies being higher in the third quarter of 2020 than in the whole of the previous year, Ms Davidson called for:

* “Supercharged” investment in start-up grants for young people who want to set up their own businesses – including tech support and loans of equipment.

* More places in sector-based work academies, providing up to six weeks training with students retaining Universal Credit payments.

* Tax incentives for businesses to take on new workers.

* A dedicated minister for youth employment, with a seat at the Cabinet table.

* “Ambitious” targets for youth training and jobs, with “a regularly updated dashboard of results and indicators”.

In October, The Independent revealed criticism that the Kickstart programme is a “sticking plaster” that will fail to provide proper work or training or prevent mass youth unemployment.

It would leave hundreds of thousands of young people on the dole, while even those offered places may receive little more than “help with their CVs and interview prep”, Rishi Sunak was told.

Ms Davidson said the Chancellor deserved “credit” for setting aside £2bn for Kickstart, but warned: “The very limitations of the scheme – the six-month timescale, minimum wage, the condition that posts demand only “basic" training – means that this is not going to transform young people's job prospects by itself.

“If ‘build back better’ and ‘levelling up’ are going to mean anything at all, they have to include investing in opportunities for our young workforce.”

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