What role do charities have in the Youth Contract?

With the number of young people not in employment, education or training consistently teetering around the one million mark in recent times, it’s encouraging that the coalition government is taking action through its Youth Contract.

The plan to spend £1bn to provide work and training placements for up to half a million 18 to 24-year-olds over the next three years will no doubt give hope to some of the hundreds of thousands of young people sat at home aimlessly sending their CVs to employers knowing full well they stand little chance of landing a job. There’s no guarantee that the youth contract scheme will lead to a full-time job, but it will give a lot of young people what they have asked for – a foot in the door and an opportunity to prove themselves.

What remains a mystery is how charities fit into the picture. One of the successes of the Labour government’s Future Jobs Fund was that it supported young people into jobs in the public, private and third sectors, but so far the government has only stated that “businesses” will be eligible to take part in the Youth Contract scheme. The NCVO and others in the sector are currently seeking clarification from the government about exactly which types of organisations will be eligible, but the fact that charities were not explicitly mentioned will only reinforce the belief that the government only considers the private sector capable of generating genuine jobs.

The fund also fails to address the fact that charities will play a leading role in supporting the remaining hundreds of thousands of young people who will not benefit from the Youth Contract. Many of these organisations face ever-increasing demand for their services, yet ever-decreasing funding.

The Youth Contract is a welcome start, but far more is needed to solve this unemployment time bomb.