YMCA, the world’s oldest and largest youth charity, has labelled the job centre “not fit for purpose” after its research uncovered evidence of a “dehumanising and demoralising” employment support service that is damaging young people’s confidence and, in some cases, even setting back their long-term employment prospects.
The charity, which supported almost 230,000 young people across England last year, says its ‘Safety Net or Springboard?’ research highlights the huge divide that exists between the help young people need to get them into long-term employment and what job centres are currently offering.
As a result, the charity is now calling on job centres to be overhauled and targeted with a new ‘service obligation’ to match the Youth Obligation being placed on young people from April 2017.
This would see job centres providing each young person with a single work coach specifically trained to support their needs, the option to participate in relevant training for more than 16 hours a week without losing benefits and the option to access in-work support once they have found employment, among other recommendations.
Denise Hatton, Chief Executive of YMCA England, the national council of YMCAs across England, said: “It is clear from the views expressed in this research that job centres are not fit for purpose and are failing to fulfil one of their two primary roles, namely to provide young people with effective public employment services.
“Rather than helping them to find work, young people are telling us that they feel dehumanised and demoralised by the service they are being offered by job centres, with little or no consideration given to their circumstances or aspirations.
“High levels of youth unemployment are not a new issue but, as the research we have published today shows, despite a range of well-intentioned schemes being put in place by successive governments, many young people are continuing to be let down by job centres.
“The changes young people feel are needed to help them into employment are not elaborate and expensive back-to-work schemes, but rather getting into a situation where they are treated like people not numbers.
“If we are to address the high levels of youth unemployment, job centres need to present more than just a financial safety net for young people.
“Job centres need to become places where young people are truly listened to and treated like individuals, being provided with support and advice designed around their needs that helps springboard them into employment.”
‘Safety Net or Springboard?’ was put together by YMCA England after a series focus groups with young people across the country.
Other recommendations for job centre support include:
- A more detailed initial assessment exploring a young person’s personal circumstances and aspirations, which is then used to inform their claimant commitment.
- More comprehensive regular sign-on sessions with their work coach.
- Regular opportunities to meet with their work coach at informal drop-in sessions.
- Opportunities to have relevant training and work experience incorporated within their claimant commitment.
- The option to discuss how available funding is utilised to enable them to participate in training.
Chloe, 19, from North Tyneside, is one young person who took part in a research focus group.
She missed out on her ‘dream job’ as a carer after being told by her job centre in March that the training scheme she had enlisted to do meant she was no longer eligible for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).
The former young carer, who helped look after her mother from the age of 11, has since been sanctioned and lost her benefits after missing two job centre appointments. She is now struggling to pay her rent.
Chloe said: “I only had three days left on my course when I was told by the job centre that I would lose my benefits because I was training for one hour longer than what was permitted each week. I was told to effectively choose between my job or my home and I had no choice but to choose the home.
“If I had completed the training I would be in long-term employment now and off benefits, so I’ve actually gone a step back.
“I’m currently applying for five jobs a day and it can get you down and affect your mental health. You know that every day you are going to get turned down again.”
There are currently 114 YMCAs across England, operating in 560 different locations. Last year, YMCA helped almost 43,000 people to engage in education, skills and training while also providing 9,831 beds predominantly to young, homeless people. These beds range from emergency accommodation for young rough sleepers to supporting accommodation and move-on beds for those hoping to enter private renting.
Click here to read ‘Safety Net or Springboard?’
For interviews with Denise Hatton or young person Chloe, please speak to Andrew Mortimer, YMCA England Communications Manager, at Andrew.email@example.com or call 020 7186 9543.
Notes to Editors:
- Founded in 1844, YMCA in England is made up of 114 member YMCAs working to ensure that young people have opportunities to thrive and contribute positively to their communities.
- YMCA operates in over 530 different communities in England impacting upon the lives of over 600,000 people every year.
- YMCAs provide almost 10,000 beds for young people every night. YMCA is the largest voluntary sector provider of safe, supported accommodation for young men and women.
- YMCA enables nearly 43,000 people every year to engage in education, skills and training to enable them to improve their opportunities in the job market.
- YMCA is the largest voluntary sector provider of health and wellbeing services promoting physical activity.