APPENDIX 4: SITE VISITS |
Youth unemployment inquiry: visit to the Prince's
Trust Centre in Liverpool, 4 December 2013
The meeting was organised through the Prince's Trust,
and was held at their centre in Liverpool.
A small delegation of Members from the Committee
attended: Baroness O'Cathain (the Chairman), Lord Haskel, the
Earl of Liverpool and Lord Wilson of Tillyorn. The delegation
was accompanied by Nicole Mason (Clerk), Paul Dowling (Policy
Analyst) and John Bell (Specialist Adviser). Victoria Holloway
(Public Affairs Executive, The Prince's Trust) also attended the
The Committee delegation met with 10 young people
(between the ages of 16-24), who were either currently on The
Prince's Trust Fairbridge programme, or had previously been involved
in the programme. The young people were from various socio-economic
backgrounds, and the majority of the young people had come to
The Prince's Trust because of complications in their home lives.
The fact sheet that the Committee received from The Prince's Trust
informed it that the young people had experienced a variety of
serious social problems. These included: being cared for by a
local authority, mental health problems, criminal records, substance
misuse and achieving little or no formal qualifications from compulsory
The Fairbridge programme in Liverpool helps around
200 young people per year, and is an individually tailored personal
development scheme, providing one-to-one support and group activities.
The programme works with young people who are educational underachievers
or unemployed and demotivated, and who are unlikely to be able
to engage in more structured programmes. It continues for as long
as it is needed by the young person in order to support them to
move into a 'positive outcome', for example, into employment,
education or training.
The session began with a short sandwich lunch, as
an 'ice breaker', over which Members of the Committee and the
young people were able to informally talk on a one-to-one basis.
The Members of the Committee were then given a tour
of the centre in Liverpool, which was equipped with kit for group
activities such as climbing, through which the young people were
able to build their teamwork skills. The centre also had a large
kitchen, which the young people told us that they used for group
cooking activities, through which they were able to improve their
skills for independent living. The young people also had access
to a computer room to enable them to build computing skills, complete
college work or to write CVs.
After the tour, Members of the Committee and the
young people took part in a group discussion about their experience
of employment. Baroness O'Cathain opened the discussion by explaining
the role of the Committee, and the subject of its current inquiry.
She briefly explained who the Committee had already heard from,
and who it intended to hear from. During the introductions part
of the session, each Member of the Committee explained their background
and first experience of the job market.
The conversation initially centred on the young people's
experiences of job centres. There seemed to be a consensus amongst
the young people that the service they had received at job centres
had been poor in their view; they described advisers as aloof
and unhelpful, as well as prescriptive in their approach to which
jobs the young people should be applying for. They highlighted
a concern about the sanctions that were threatened if they did
not apply for the requisite number of jobs, a number that they
considered unachievable in some cases (one young person gave an
example where his friend had been asked to apply for at least
30 jobs in a week). We were also told that transport costs presented
a major obstacle for young unemployed people attending interviews.
The Prince's Trust team leaders mentioned that they had a national
agreement with Jobcentre Plus, whereby Jobcentre Plus undertook
to refer suitable jobseekers to the programme. However, the team
leaders noted that whether or not a jobseeker interested in the
programme was referred to it seemed to depend on which adviser
the young person or team leader spoke to.
The young people talked about the importance of a
stable living situation as a necessity for accessing a stable
job. They noted that there was currently a lack of accessible,
The issue of careers guidance and advice was discussed
in some detail. There was generally a consensus that the careers
advice which had been available to the young people was not adequate
in helping them to access the labour market. The majority of the
young people agreed that there had been a focus on providing careers
advice for those that wanted to undertake A-levels and go to university
at the expense of other students. When asked whether they had
used the now defunct Connexions service, one young person said
that she had received advice from it at school, but there was
only one adviser between a large number of students. She said
that a follow-up appointment was promised, but was not forthcoming,
and that it was difficult to contact them in order to arrange
Further discussions on the subject of careers guidance
revealed that many of the young people aspired to work in the
construction sector, but were not aware of where to go in order
to acquire the skills needed to break into this career.
Other issues discussed included the high demand for
Prince's Trust courses, and the issue of how best the young people
could engage with Parliamentarians and the Government. The young
people and team leaders were given the Clerk's details, and advised
to get in touch either directly or through one of the team leaders
with any further thoughts.
Youth unemployment inquiry: visit to Birmingham City
Council and Partners, 17 December 2013
The meeting was organised through Birmingham City
Council, and the first part of the meeting was held at the Council
House in Birmingham. For the second part of the visit, Members
of the Committee travelled to St Basils, an organisation which
works with young people to enable them to find long-term housing,
with the aim of eradicating homelessness.
A small delegation of Members from the Committee
attended: Baroness O'Cathain (the Chairman), Lord Freeman and
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe. The delegation was accompanied by
Nicole Mason (Clerk), Paul Dowling (Policy Analyst), and John
Bell (Specialist Adviser).
The delegation were welcomed by Lloyd Broad (Head
of European and International Affairs) and Shilpi Akbar (Assistant
Director for Employment) from Birmingham City Council. The first
session was a welcome and introductions session, led by Councillor
Ali (Cabinet Member for Development, Jobs and Skills) and Baroness
O'Cathain, the Chairman. Baroness O'Cathain briefly explained
the work of the Committee, the focus of the inquiry, and what
the Committee hoped to achieve through the visit to Birmingham.
Councillor Ali gave a short introduction, highlighting the challenges
faced by Birmingham in the area of youth unemployment, given that
it is demographically one of the "youngest" cities in
Europe. He noted that Birmingham City Council had been working
with its partners to address the consequent issue of high youth
unemployment, and struck a positive chord with respect to the
results achieved so far. Councillor Ali invited all the participants
to give a brief introduction as to their role in their respective
Lloyd Broad gave an overview of the written and oral
evidence given to the Committee's inquiry, reiterating the three
key messages in Birmingham City Council's supplementary written
evidence: that there was a need for greater local and place-based
leadership for issues such as youth unemployment; that there must
be a commitment to developing better and more effective integrated
strategic partnerships; and that there should be a greater devolution
of funding, accountability and powers to cities and Local Enterprise
Mark Barrow (Chief Executive for Greater Birmingham
and Solihull LEP) outlined the situation in Birmingham. He noted
that despite having 540,000 jobs, Birmingham was still suffering
from high rates of unemployment because many of the jobs were
taken by commuters. Thus he highlighted the importance of any
youth unemployment strategy taking account of these wider geographies.
Mr Barrow reported that his LEP had worked closely with Lord
Heseltine to create a delivery plan for targeting youth unemployment.
However, he noted the importance of the Government's input in
this process, observing that the majority of recommendations in
Lord Heseltine's review
were made to the Government rather than local authorities. He
noted that LEPs were a loose affiliation of "willing partners"
and were found in different forms around the country, and that
there was no specific guidance from Government on 'best practice'
for LEPs. He spoke briefly about some of the youth unemployment
related initiatives taking place within Birmingham and Solihull,
and noted that the eventual aim was to create a better matching
of skills with employers to eradicate the need for compensatory
measures, such as Birmingham's job fund.
Before concluding, Mr Barrow mentioned that
Birmingham City Council had been working with the Cabinet office
to establish how best to use the underspend from the Youth Contract.
He reported that £4 million of this was expected to go towards
training for growth sectors such as the advanced manufacturing
and engineering sectors, furthering the aim of matching skills
to employment opportunities.
Gail Walters (Head of Community engagement at Midland
Heart, a housing and care organisation that works with young people)
gave an overview of how Midland Heart helped young people back
into employment through its 'Back on Track' programme. She explained
that the underlying ethos of Midland Heart's ideology was a holistic
one, which acknowledged that peer pressure, social background
and a lack of networks contributed to inability to access employment.
It had a focus on young people who had previously broken the law,
and therefore found it difficult to access the job market. Midland
Heart is funded through its own resources, because it feels that
there is not a funding programme which reflects the different
services that it provides for young people.
Ms Walters briefly explained the structure of the
programme: it starts with a four week unpaid induction programme.
If the young people attend the entire induction programme punctually
and participate fully, they are employed on a year-long apprenticeship,
which can be further extended if appropriate. During the apprenticeship,
Midland Heart also works with the family of the young person to
ensure a stable home life which enables them to participate in
the labour market, for example, working with the family to ensure
that they are properly housed. She stated that many of the young
people saw this as a stepping stone to getting into the job market
after re-offending. From the 33 young people on the programme
last year, 25 were working and only two had reoffended.
In conclusion, Ms Walters mentioned that according
to a recent evaluation it had carried out, every pound invested
in Midland Heart returned £5.60 in Government savings.
Over lunch, the Committee was able to hear the views
of the unemployed young people who were drawn from different programmes
offered by Birmingham City Council and its partners, and came
from a variety of backgrounds. Some of the young people who attended
the session came from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds
and had criminal records.
The discussion began with one of the young people
saying that a universal approach to a particular group of young
people as 'NEETs' was unhelpful, ignoring the very different needs
of young people. Other young attendees voiced their perception
that there were not enough jobs out there, and that young people
were not provided with the skills training and guidance to access
those that were available. One of the young people said that for
those who were not attending university, there was a lack of careers
guidance, particularly at school, and that they were presented
with limited options for other types of training.
The discussion dealt in detail with the difficulty
ex-offenders found in terms of getting into work, regardless of
their qualifications. The young people who were on the Midland
Heart programme said that they wanted to stay in work, and made
clear that work provided them with certainty and structure. They
also noted that it gave them responsibility and a stake in society,
making them "think twice" before re-offending. They
said that they had been able to build up the necessary skills
for further employment, for example, learning how to interact
with others in a professional setting. Addressing the issue of
possible measures to help offenders get back into work, they pointed
to the fact that most employers did not appreciate that personal
issues that occur outside work may affect an employee's ability
to attend or perform properly.
One of the young people said that he would be travelling
on a funded programme to visit the Netherlands for three months
to work on a business plan. He suggested that a possible measure
to tackle youth unemployment might be to make international schemes
like this more widely available, providing young people with the
opportunity to learn new skills outside their normal frame of
reference, comfort zone, and possibly away from negative influences.
One of the young people was very well qualified,
with four degrees, but had still been unable to find employment
for over two years. She stressed that young people should be made
aware that a good education was not a precursor to employment
and that other skills were as important. It was also suggested
that there needed to be a better link between education establishments
and the employment market.
For the second part of the meeting, the delegation
travelled to one of the St Basils transitional housing centres
in Birmingham. The attendees were young people who were using
the housing facility, and the St Basils management team. Here,
the discussion focussed mainly on homelessness, but this was worthwhile
in terms of drawing attention to the relationship between homelessness
and unemployment. For example, in 2012, 75 per cent of the young
people who had used the St Basils scheme had been able to re-engage
with employment, education and training.
The benefits of the National Youth Reference Group
were discussed in the wider context of the importance of young
people being involved in decisions which affect them. The group
is made up of young people aged 16-25 from across England who
are homeless or have experienced homelessness. It exists to assist
national and local government, local authorities and organisations
to engage with young people in the development of policies and
One issue raised by Jean Templeton (St Basils Chief
Executive) was that St Basils found it difficult to obtain funding
because of the small scale nature of the programme. She stated
that they felt unable to compete for funding under the Government's
Work Programme and suggested that there was not enough engagement
from the Work Programme providers and other similarly commissioned
The discussion moved on to the young people's experiences
of the labour market. Many of the issues that had been discussed
were revisited, including the need for a better link between education,
training and work. The young people emphasised the importance
of finding a sustainable source of work, in a subject that they
were interested in pursuing, as opposed to "any job".
306 No stone unturned: in pursuit of growth, March
2012, Lord Heseltine review, available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/no-stone-unturned-in-pursuit-of-growth Back