Search

Fears over Norfolk youth

PUBLISHED: 08:51 29 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:01 03 July 2010

Fears are growing of a lost generation of long-term unemployed emerging in Norfolk as figures show that the under 25s are more likely to be out of work claiming benefits than anywhere else in the country - even though the county has been spared the worst effects of the recession.

Fears are growing of a lost generation of long-term unemployed emerging in Norfolk as figures show that the under 25s are more likely to be out of work claiming benefits than anywhere else in the country - even though the county has been spared the worst effects of the recession.

Norfolk has considerably higher than average levels of Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) claimants among 18 to 24-year-olds at around 12.8pc compared to 10.7pc for the region and 11.5pc nationally.

In the past 12 months the numbers of young people claiming JSA has nearly doubled rising from 1,220 to 2,255.

The numbers unemployed for under six months are up from 8,130 to 11,210 while the numbers of long-term unemployed is at its highest since the 1990s, currently 5,460.

The county also has the highest proportion of 18-24 year-olds claiming JSA in the country - 31pc.

Rising youth unemployment is one of the major impacts of the recession, while tackling it is likely to prove a key battleground in the looming general election.

The news comes as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) warned of a "sting" in the tail of the recession, with a winter rise in job losses as firms assess prospects for the economy in the coming year.

In July the government awarded Norfolk County Council £2.3m of its future job fund cash after the authority successfully bid for the cash to create 356 new jobs for young people.

Jobs created are mostly in social enterprises in areas such green construction, clerical, gardening, plastering, painting and decorating.

But the scale of youth unemployment and the value of those new jobs were looked at during a recent county council scrutiny committee meeting to gauge the success of efforts to support Norfolk through the recession.

Paul Morse, committee chairman and leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, said while there were training courses and advice available to help, he was worried about the impact the high numbers would have.

“I am concerned that when you look at the unemployment figures the 18-24 year-olds make up such a high proportion - higher than the regional and national average,” Mr Morse said. “I have an awful fear of people falling through the net,” he added. “I don't know what the answer is, but the social consequences of young people not having a job or training are high.

“If you are unemployed at this age, you are going to be unemployed for an awfully long time.”

County Hall figures show that since July 2008 there have been 6,186 redundancies notified to Jobcentre Plus. The hardest hit sectors have been manufacturing and insurance and financial services. But the number of notifications in November 2009 was 248 compared to 418 in the same period 12 months a year ago - suggesting the worst may be over unless there is a second economic dip.

John Dobson, Conservative councillor for Dersingham, said while action was needed there were questions about whether creating jobs in social enterprises were more effective than councils acting to cut red tape and trying to support small businesses.

“The fear for all political parties is that we have a generation of young people who come into working age during a recession and then never get out of it,” Mr Dobson said. “Are we not better off as a county council encouraging commerce as that generates demand not coming from the public purse by generating examples where small businesses can be helped to set up.”

Fellow Conservative councillor Cliff Jordan, said such was the scale of the recession that councils could only do so much to help.

“This is really serious and it's about trying to do something about the youngsters, but the problem is demand,” Mr Jordan said. “Until you get the demand where workers are needed, I don't know what you can do.”

Fiona McDiarmid, Norfolk County Council's head of economic development, said the high numbers of small and medium sized businesses in the county had meant it had not been as badly hit by the recession as other parts of the country which rely on large scale manufacturing jobs.

And she suggested that issues around youth unemployment are long-term and predate the recession.

“Yes we have had a recession and have been hit by it, but not to the extent of other parts of the country,” she said.

“I think it is worth a future scrutiny as to why that figure is. It also suggests that that prior to the recession we had issues about 18-24 year-olds in employment.”

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Great Yarmouth Mercury