It can be very easy to forget all the things that have been cut since the Conservatives came to power a decade ago. Initially with the help of the Liberal Democrats, the Tories cut funding and services left, right and centre with devastating consequences.
One of the many schemes that the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition Government ended was the Future Jobs Fund, which helped unemployed young people into the world of work by guaranteeing them an offer of a job, training or work experience, after six months of being on Jobseeker’s Allowance.
The Tories cut this scheme before the assessment of its effectiveness was complete. When the official assessment was made in 2012, it was found that the initiative was very effective, helping young people find jobs and consequently increasing tax revenue and reducing the national benefits bill.
That initiative was introduced following the global financial crisis of 2008, which caused a spike in unemployment. Unfortunately, it looks like the Coronavirus pandemic may have a similar effect, potentially bringing unemployment to far higher levels than even the 2008 crash.
Of course, we all hope that this will not be the case and that our economy can get back up and running as soon as possible. However, we need to be realistic. With many businesses in severe trouble, we have already seen many jobs lost as a result of this crisis, and it’s not clear how quickly they will come back. Unemployment data in Tameside released recently is the worst that I’ve seen since becoming an MP and is a real concern for me.
We need to be prepared, therefore, in case there is another spike in unemployment – and particularly youth unemployment, which looks set to hit one million by the end of the year. By definition, younger people generally have less experience in the workplace than others and that puts them at a real disadvantage in the kind of competitive jobs market that high unemployment creates.
That’s why I think Tameside – and the country – needs a Future Jobs Fund for the post-Covid era. We need urgently to invest in jobs, training and work experience for our young people to ensure that Coronavirus doesn’t create a lost generation of young people who struggle to find work. The impact that this would have would stretch far into the future and needs to be avoided at all costs.