Speaker's Corner: Dermot Finch on youth unemployment and The Prince's Trust
Many of our young people are still without work. The headline rate of unemployment has thankfully come down recently, but official estimates suggest it could go up again over the next year.
It's a tough time for young people across the whole of the UK. Our research last week revealed that one in ten young people feel that they cannot cope with day-to-day life. Unemployed young people are more than twice as likely to feel this way.
Every year, the Prince's Trust Youth Index measures how young people feel about their lives today and how confident they are about the future. Our fifth annual index shows that happiness and confidence levels among young people have returned to their lowest levels.
In Bristol we are becoming increasingly concerned about the number of young people who are long-term unemployed. Across the city, the number of young people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance for more than six months has increased by 367 per cent since before the recession.
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The long-term unemployed don't just lack a job or income – they often face other issues such as homelessness and low self-esteem, which make it even harder for them to get back to work. Many young people who come to the Prince's Trust for help talk of depression, anxiety and feelings of isolation.
Take Arunee, from Bristol. She spent the first five years of her life in a Thai orphanage. She came to the UK when she was adopted at the age of five and had a happy childhood, until she experienced bullying at school and started spending time with the wrong crowd. She would regularly skip school and experiment with drugs until eventually she was expelled. Arunee's downward spiral continued when she ran away from home at 15 and ended up living on the streets. She spent the next six years living in and out of hostels and got mixed up with a bad crowd known for drugs, alcohol and crime.
During this time, she struggled to hold down a job and she remained unemployed. Each rejection letter Arunee received knocked her self-esteem, which in turn affected her motivation to continue seeking work. After returning to live with her parents, she continued to seek employment but then fell pregnant and gave birth to a daughter. As a single mother, Arunee realised she needed to find a way of providing for her family so she signed up to a Prince's Trust course called Get into Youth Work.
As a result she went to on to study at City of Bath College to gain qualifications which will help her to realise her ambition of working in the Probation Service, where she is currently volunteering.
Young people who are long-term unemployed, such as Arunee, need our urgent attention and help. We cannot afford to put their lives on hold for another year.
Unfortunately, those who have faced significant challenges while growing up – abuse, neglect, homelessness – regularly end up furthest from the workplace. They can become trapped in a demoralising downward spiral, from a chaotic childhood into a jobless adult life.
The Prince's Trust is here to help. We provide support for the most vulnerable young people to fulfil their potential. We help 55,000 disadvantaged young people each year to get their lives back on track. We are dedicated to providing a support network for those who need it most – and crucially, our programmes get young people into jobs and training. The trust works with young people to make sure that those furthest away from the job market are given the confidence boost they need so they have the best possible chance of finding work.
By helping young people get out of the situation they are in, we can improve their self-esteem and break the cycle of hopelessness. We work with partners in the area such as Bristol Rovers Football Club to train young people in specific industries and get them started in their first job. The Prince's Trust remains optimistic that we can make a real difference to the young people who need our help.
There is much to do in 2013 to guide the most vulnerable young people in Bristol into jobs. Working with employers and local government, we believe we can increase the number of young lives we change in the year ahead.