By Daniel Hunter

Young people struggling to find work are being failed by nationally-run job schemes designed to help them, local government leaders are warning as new research shows a drop in help for the jobless young.

A report from the Local Government Association (LGA) reveals that almost 50,000 fewer young people are getting help from national job schemes now than three years ago, despite long-term youth unemployment remaining stubbornly high.

The research, Hidden Talents: national programmes for young people, highlights a drop by 8 per cent in the number of young people in England starting one of the 35 nationally-run schemes last year than three years before, falling from 605,354 in 2009/10 to 559,183 in 2012/13.

Local government leaders are also concerned by figures that show continued meddling in national programmes by consecutive Governments is having a negative impact on the schemes designed to help get young people back into work or training.

Figures show the number of young people starting skills or employment programmes fell by 18 per cent during the transition period between the last Government and the Coalition government's programmes, with 113,761 fewer young people in England starting programmes in 2011/12 than in 2010/11, a decrease from 623,204 to 509,443.

The LGA is now warning that the current system to tackle youth unemployment isn't working as it is overly-complicated and awash with 35 different national schemes that span 13 different age boundaries at a cost of £15 billion a year.

In addition, the complexity of successive national schemes and the way the Government publishes statistics makes it impossible to view how effective the schemes are and how they are performing for young people generally. In the few instances where data is available, the success of national schemes is low.

Only 27 per cent of 16 and 17-year-olds starting the Government's Youth Contract were helped. In contrast, where the scheme was run by councils over the same period, Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford have seen almost three in five young people (57 per cent) who have taken part get into education, training or employment.

A similar local approach in Newcastle and Gateshead has resulted in almost half (47 per cent) of participants who were previously categorised as Neet (not in employment, education or training) successfully helped into a job or training course.

Based on what these local areas are achieving, a devolved Youth Contract across England could have helped twice the number of young people into work or learning.

"With young people returning to school in a few weeks now having to stay in education or training until they are 17 years old, it's even more important that we are offering them meaningful training and employment schemes that will provide the very best opportunities for them to get into the local jobs market," Cllr David Simmonds, Chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said.

"It's clear that nationally-driven attempts to tackle youth unemployment aren't working. While there are a number of good initiatives, government has sidelined councils and incentivised a series of services like schools, colleges and voluntary sector providers to work in isolation of each other, with no clarity on who is responsible for leading the offer to young people on the ground.

"We know the level of success that local organisations, such as councils, businesses and education providers, can achieve when working together, but this is being hampered by successive centrally-driven Government approaches. This has long been a major frustration for councils, who are in the unique position of knowing the young people in their area and the skills and training required by the local jobs market.

"We would now urge Government to give local authorities and their partners the powers to ‘own the problem' and become the link between young people and local employers. By introducing a local approach to addressing youth unemployment councils and their partners will be better able to spot and offer early help to young people struggling at school, train young people in skills to take local jobs in local labour markets, help improve the performance of the Work Programme for the hardest to reach, and target job subsidies to local businesses offering the best opportunities for young people."

The research follows a recent poll which found three in five (60 per cent) young people felt there was not enough support to help them into work, while only one in four (26 per cent) believe Government has the right approach to finding them a job.

The LGA is now calling for government departments to adopt a common system for providing information on their programmes. Local authorities should also be given the tools to be able to scrutinise Government-funded provision and ensure it is meeting the needs of local young people.

This would include being able to assess if young people were achieving programme aims, and what happens to those who are not. It would also monitor what percentage of people who start programmes go on to achieve paid work, and what happens to those who do not.

The LGA is also calling on local authorities and their partners to be able to:

- become the default commissioners of all programmes seeking to get the most disengaged young people up to 24 years old back into work training and education

- lead in setting local and sub-regional priorities for 16-24 skills provision, driven by employer demand in local labour markets and linked to pre-16 provision

- co-design, with Jobcentre Plus and work programme providers, joint packages and employment programmes for the hardest to reach young people, effectively bringing together local and national programmes

- commission wage subsidies, announced as part of the Youth Contract, engaging small and medium enterprises and targeting young people with most to gain from public subsidies.

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