Council plans support for young people as youth unemployment soars in Devon

  Posted: 03.05.21 at 16:09 by Daniel Clark, Local Democracy Reporter

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Devon’s young people have borne the brunt of the unemployment crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic, with the number of jobless 18 to 24 year olds rising steeply in a year.

The problem was discussed by Devon County Council last Thursday, April 29.

As of March 2021 – the latest data available – 6.7 per cent of those in that age group in the county were claiming universal credit – 4,135 individuals.

In March 2020 just 2.7 per cent of young people – 1,350 individuals – were claiming similar unemployment benefits.

Following the immediate economic shock from the onset of the pandemic between in March and July 2020, youth unemployment across the county rapidly increased to 7.5 per cent, councillors were told, and while the rate had fallen, there was then another increase over the past two months as the third lockdown was implemented.

But Cllr Rufus Gilbert, cabinet member for economy, said that the council was supporting an economic recovery programme to address the issues.

He said: “In the short term, it is expected that this temporary increase will disappear as the county continues along the Government’s current unlocking roadmap, but it is currently anticipated that the overall unemployment rate will increase slightly in the second half of 2021 as normal conditions return, and emergency assistance programmes and furlough assistance end. However, it is anticipated that this increase will be short-lived, with a steady drop in unemployment then expected during 2022 and 2023.”

He said the county council has been extremely active over the Covid period, supporting programmes and pathways helping young people to access work and other training and learning opportunities.

These include the Government’s Kickstart programme, delivered in partnership with other organisations across the area, which has created or is in the process of creating more than 1,000 jobs in Devon for those aged between 18 and 24. The council has also worked with schools and colleges to support movement into college and other opportunities outside of work, direct commissioning of the Devon and Cornwall Training Provider network to work with the Council around the promotion and support of apprenticeships, and direct support for individuals and employers facing redundancy or the end of furlough.

Cllr Gilbert said: “Looking ahead, following the council’s decision to support an economic recovery programme, planning is currently ongoing around a supplementary programme of support to be rolled out over the next six to nine months.

“This will include additional support for young people preparing to leave full time education or move on to further and higher education, targeted support for young people with additional needs or barriers to work or other progression, supplementary advice and support for those considering an apprenticeship or other traineeship approach, additional basic skills and functional skills opportunities for those aged 18-24 with Learn Devon, and broader support for youth enterprise, graduate innovation and the Government’s ongoing Kickstart and other employment support programmes.”

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