Youth unemployment in the EU: a scarred generation? - European Union Committee Contents

Chapter 8: Voices of young people

151.  This Chapter considers whether young people, youth groups and their representatives are involved in and consulted to a satisfactory degree, on the use of EU funding for youth unemployment projects. We received evidence on this issue from employers, civil society organisations, politicians and civil servants, as well as from young people themselves and groups that aim to represent their views.

EU level consultation

152.  The evidence we received suggested that EU institutions do make a concerted effort to consult young people in the development of their policies. Commissioner Andor said that he had held two meetings with the Spanish Youth Council to discuss the difficult youth unemployment situation in Spain. He also said that the European Youth Forum was a very valuable partner for the European Commission.[275] The European Commission pointed out that its Recommendation on the establishment of a Youth Guarantee clearly called on Member States to consult young people in the design of schemes, to fulfil its requirements. He also said that the European Commission had fine-tuned its proposal for a Quality Framework for Traineeships to reflect young people's concerns about quality, as highlighted in a Eurobarometer survey.[276]

153.  The European Parliament Youth Intergroup stated that one of its biggest challenges was how to implement the feedback from consultations with youth groups into its legislative work.[277] It sought to address this by always including a member of the European Youth Forum in its events,[278] and one of its priorities was to make sure that youth organisations, together with civil society organisations, played a role with governments in developing the Youth Guarantee.[279] Luca Scarpiello, adviser to the Intergroup, also highlighted the EU's Structured Dialogue process as an important example of the EU's engagement with young people.[280] In December 2013, the Centre for European Studies launched an internet-based consultation platform for young people to propose ideas on how Europe could grow. Feedback on how to reduce youth unemployment featured prominently.[281]

154.  The European Youth Forum said that the level of interaction with the European Commission had been quite good and that it had given input to the development of the European Commission's Recommendation for a Youth Guarantee. However, the European Parliament Youth Intergroup said that the level of endorsement of its input had only been partial.[282] The picture at Member State level was also mixed, with some national youth councils only being consulted by governments on a very "last-minute" basis.[283] The British Youth Council, which is the UK's representative in the European Youth Forum, consulted between 800 and 1,000 young people for their views on unemployment and submitted them as part of an EU consultation.[284] Business Europe said it was aware that the European Commission also consulted young people via the Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions.[285]

155.  We welcome the efforts made by the European Commission to consult young people and their representatives in the development of EU policies to reduce youth unemployment. We recommend that the European Commission continues this work into the future.

UK Government consultation

156.  We received a mixed response from witnesses about the consultation of young people in the UK. Some took the view that young people were generally not consulted on the development of youth unemployment programmes in the UK[286] and Prospects said that there was a danger that consultation was being done in a token fashion.[287] The British Youth Council said that the Cabinet Office and the Department for Education did a good job in consulting young people, but that the Department for Work and Pensions was not as diligent. It was under the impression that responsibility for youth policy in the Government was lost between a number of different departments.[288]

157.  Matthew Hancock MP, the Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise said that the UK Government endeavoured to "listen to the customer" and to take the views of young people into account when developing policies and programmes.[289] However, he added the caveat that policy development was a "profession—an occupation—and we have to make sure that we have extremely capable people … involved in it".[290] The Minister of State for Employment said that the UK Government used pilot schemes to test new ideas and that "they would have engagement with stakeholders through which people would feed in".[291]

158.  The UK Government have asked LEPs to consult local partners in developing their strategies, but there is no requirement for them to consult youth groups in particular. NACUE disagreed with this policy and highlighted the importance of LEPs in acting as conduits for young people's ideas. It suggested that every single LEP should have a student or youth board that helped guide the development of the LEP's enterprise programmes.[292] Lord Heseltine said that he would not "single out the unemployed youth as representatives of the youth in this country" and cautioned against the mandatory membership of young unemployed people on the boards of LEPs and similar organisations.[293]

159.  DELNI said that it was in an advantageous position due to the fact that as one government department, its work cut across quite a number of the issues that many young people encounter. Consultation of young people was therefore easier.[294] For example, DELNI designed a young person's version of the consultation document when designing its Pathways to Success programme. DELNI also said that it consulted a NEETs strategy forum, a voluntary organisation with 65 members from different backgrounds, to inform its policy development.[295] Buckinghamshire Thames Valley LEP also emphasised that local determination of programme design and delivery that included young people in the process was most likely to achieve the greatest involvement and successful outcomes for young people.[296]

160.  We recommend that the UK Government requires Local Enterprise Partnerships to consult with and involve youth groups in developing policies that affect young people, such as measures to address youth unemployment.

Civil society organisations' consultation

161.  The TUC and the ETUC acknowledged that their organisations no longer have the same level of representation as they once had, but they said that they are making efforts to engage more young workers in their activities.[297] The ETUC also argued that in seeking to negotiate better employment benefits with the UK Government and employers, unions were defending the rights and interests of unemployed people.[298]

162.  Unsurprisingly, organisations representing young people, such as the NUS and the British Youth Council, gave strong evidence in favour of involving young people in policy and decision-making.[299] This was supported by other civil society organisations working with and delivering services to young unemployed people in the UK.[300] For example, Prospects said that involving young people in writing the specifications when commissioning two large contracts had resulted in a "powerful piece of work",[301] while Rathbone said that its senior management team was regularly held to account on its pledges by a committee of young people.[302] The Big Lottery Fund, the body that distributes the funds from the National Lottery to community projects, said that it directly involved young people as members of the committee that governed its Talent Match programme and that they jointly made decisions on applications to the fund alongside other committee members. It had also compiled examples of good practice from its Young People's Fund (a collection of programmes that had taken place across the UK since 2004) on the involvement of young people.[303] In its evaluation of the Young People's Fund, the Big Lottery Fund found that its:

    "requirement for projects to actively involve young people in how they were planned and run has led to a change in culture among youth organisations. It has allowed young people to shape services that affect them and in doing so it has further developed valuable skills among participants".[304]

163.  We are convinced that the meaningful consultation of young people in the development and implementation of programmes to reduce youth unemployment is a necessary component for success. We believe there is a danger that consultation processes will lack credibility if those involved cannot see that their input has been taken into account and made a difference. We therefore encourage the European Commission and UK Government to enhance their efforts in this respect and to evaluate and publicise specific examples of where the involvement of young people has had an influence.

275   Q 191 Back

276   Max Uebe, European Commission; The Flash Eurobarometer 378 report, November 2013, The Experience of Traineeships in the EU, is available via: Back

277   Q 175  Back

278   Q 167 Back

279   Q 168  Back

280   The Structured Dialogue is a process for discussions between young people and EU policy-makers about different themes, to make sure the opinions of young people are taken into account in defining the EU's youth policies. The themes and topics for discussion are decided at European level by EU youth ministers. A Committee of the current trio of EU Presidency countries, the European Commission and the European Youth Forum is responsible for coordinating the process and deciding upon sets of questions to ask young people across Europe twice a year. The EU Council agreed in November 2009 that youth employment should be the overall thematic priority for European cooperation in the youth field for period January 2010-June 2011. Back

281   Q 217  Back

282   Q 209; European Parliament Youth Intergroup.  Back

283   Q 207 Back

284   Q 128  Back

285   Q 207  Back

286   Emma McClarkin MEP; Rathbone; Employment Pathways; Youth Enterprise and Unemployment; Q 131 Back

287   Prospects Back

288   Q 133 Back

289   Q 253 Back

290   Ibid. Back

291   Q 253 Back

292   Q 136 Back

293   Q 265 Back

294   Q 63 Back

295   Q 68 Back

296   Buckinghamshire Thames Valley LEP Back

297   Q 197; Q 213  Back

298   Q 198  Back

299   Q 127 Back

300   Youth Employment UK CIC; Prince's Trust Back

301   Q 58 Back

302   Q 59 Back

303   Big Lottery Fund  Back

304   Ibid. Back

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