Clegg’s ‘pay per Neet scheme’

Helen Cox

No, the deputy PM hasn’t lost all grasp of the English language. Instead, he has set up a scheme to tackle one of the biggest problems facing the UK at the moment – that is, the ‘rise of the Neets’.

‘Pay per Neet’ follows the government’s recent work experience scheme, launched last January that encourages unemployed people on benefits to gain experience in the working world whilst retaining their benefits. Jobseekers are invited to take on unpaid placements of between two and eight weeks. Latest figures show that as of November, 39,000 people had taken part and half of them were off jobseeker’s allowance four weeks later. It encourages people to stay on the placement due to the fact that if someone quits after the first week of a placement they could lose part of their benefits.

The work experience scheme has recently been criticised as exploitative by some people and campaigners claim big companies are using the scheme to get cheap labour. These latest concerns have caused some of the major companies supporting the scheme, like Sainsbury’s and Waterstones, to withdraw for fear of negative publicity.

Employment minister Chris Grayling says firms trying to help should be encouraged rather than criticised.

“I simply don’t understand the mentality of people looking at this who are saying it’s the wrong thing to do,” says Mr Grayling.

“‘It’s slavery?’ They are simply talking nonsense and they’re damaging the prospects of the young unemployed.”

So what is Nick Clegg’s new scheme all about? Neet stands for Not in Education, Employment or Training and is a label applied to 16 to 24 year olds in the UK. The current figure stands at 1,163,000 and is on the rise as more and more young people are dropping out of college or avoiding it altogether due to the recent axing of EMA.

Mr Clegg described the problem of rising youth unemployment as a “ticking time bomb”.

“Sitting at home with nothing to do when you’re so young can knock the stuffing out of you for years,” he said.

“We urgently need to step up efforts to ensure some of our most troubled teenagers have the skills, confidence and opportunities to succeed.”

[pullquote]The current figure stands at 1,163,000 and is on the rise[/pullquote]

This new £126m scheme comes as part of the government’s attempts to get more people into work and ease off dependence on benefit.This ‘youth contract’ will cost the government £1bn. The scheme will help around 55,000 young people with poor qualifications get into the world of work. Firms will receive a payment if they can keep a young person aged 16 to 17 with no GCSEs at grade C in employment for 12 months.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said the scheme would not help most young unemployed people.

“This is much too small and much too late to tackle a problem that is likely to cost our country £28bn over the next 10 years.

“The government needs to bite the bullet and put in place a sensible tax on bankers’ bonuses in the next budget to help get 100,000 young people back to work.”

The move has been criticised by Labour as ‘too little, too late’ and they may have a point – with 1 in 5 under 25 year olds now classed as a Neet, will a reduction of 55,000 really make much difference?

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