Devon’s youngsters have borne the brunt of the unemployment crisis created as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – with levels tripling in a year. In line with the rest of the UK, Devon has experienced an increase in youth unemployment over the past 12 months due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic.
YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT LEVELS
Devon’s youngsters have borne the brunt of the unemployment crisis created as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – with levels tripling in a year.
In line with the rest of the UK, Devon has experienced an increase in youth unemployment over the past 12 months due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic.
As of March 2021 – the latest data available – 6.7 per cent of those aged between 18-24 within the county were claiming universal credit – 4,135 individuals, Thursday’s full Devon County Council meeting heard.
This represented a near tripling from March 2020, when 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 in March – 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 has been implemented.
But Cllr Rufus Gilbert, cabinet member for economy, said that the council was supporting an economic recovery programme to address the issues and they were supporting the new Exeter city centre drop-in hub which opened to support anyone looking for work in the city and the surrounding areas.
Having been asked by Cllr Rob Hannaford, leader of the Labour group, to report on issues around youth unemployment and what Devon was doing to get young people back into work, Cllr Gilbert confirmed that in line with the rest of the UK, Devon has experienced an increase in youth unemployment over the past 12 months,
Cllr Gilbert added: “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 ends. However, it is anticipated that this increase will be short lived, with a steady drop in unemployment then expected during 2022 and 2023.
“With regards direct support for young people and unemployment, Devon County Council has been extremely active over the COVID period supporting programmes and pathways to allow young people to access work and other training and learning opportunities.
“This includes supporting partner organisations across the area around delivery of the Government’s Kickstart programme, with over 1,000 jobs created or in the process of being created across the County for those aged between 18-24, working with schools and colleges through our shared Careers Hub and Post 16 Transitions programme 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 end of furlough / redundancy.”
On April 21, the new Exeter Youth Hub opened, which is a joint project between Devon County Council, Exeter City Council and the Job Centre Plus, with the hub due to support at least 500 young people from across the County over the next year with advice and wider support services which allow them to enter work, training or a wider learning opportunity.
Cllr Gilbert added: “The centre is the latest addition to a peninsula wide network of youth centric hubs across the Greater Devon area, which includes activity within North Devon, Torbay and Plymouth. Engagement is now ongoing with partners, including the Youth Service, National Careers Service, CSW, Colleges and other key providers, to ensure that Devon County Council and Exeter City Council can maximise the impact of this capacity over the next twelve months.
“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 6-9 months.
“This will include additional support for young people preparing to leave full time education or move onto further and higher education, targeted support for young people with additional needs or barrier 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.”