The government’s flagship youth unemployment programme aims to provide unemployed 18 to 21 year olds with intensive support to help them find a job. There’s also the promise of a traineeship or work placement if they’re still not in work after six months.
Centrepoint welcomes any government policy that means disadvantaged young people receive extra help to enter the workplace. But concerns were raised about how the Youth Obligation programme might work in practice, particularly as it increases the risk of sanctions if young people are expected to attend more sessions at the Jobcentre.
Over the past year, with Trust for London funding, Centrepoint commissioned the University of Warwick to evaluate the Youth Obligation.
Some of the most vulnerable young people are dropping out of the benefits system
Of the 50 young people on the Youth Obligation that were tracked, around half dropped out of the programme - but not because they found work. These young people had to leave because they were struggling with ongoing issues, such as poor mental health or homelessness. It is very difficult for young people to start looking for a job until they have dealt with these complex issues. It is concerning that these young people had to drop out of the system altogether and stopped receiving their benefits payments as a result.
Sanctioning rates were higher for young people on the Youth Obligation
The research found that 36% of young people on the Youth Obligation were sanctioned, compared to 24% of young people not on the Youth Obligation. Young people might be sanctioned for a range of reasons, like missing a Jobcentre appointed. Some of the young people supported by Centrepoint struggle to meet set expectations because they simply don't have the tools to do so, such as access to the internet.
Many young people aren't receiving promised work placements
Despite the promise of a work placement offer, 96% of the young people surveyed were not offered a traineeship or work placement if they were still on the Youth Obligation after six months.
Support should be tailored to the sector
Only 12% of young people surveyed rated Jobcentre staff understanding of their situation as good. If tailored support is going to be offered to vulnerable claimants, it is essential that every single young person feels their situation is understood.
Jobcentres should reach out to third party providers more often. Providers such as Centrepoint understand the needs of the young people they support and can work with Jobcentres to offer them the tailored support they need.