Criticism over Nick Clegg’s plans for Sunderland youngsters

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg MP.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg MP.
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WEARSIDE teens could receive a wake-up call as part of a drive to get them back to college or work.

The national initiative is part of Nick Clegg’s £126million Youth Contract to tackle the record number of 16 and 17-year-olds not in education, employment or training – the so-called Neet generation.

One North East scheme, run by Pertemps People Development Group, will see wake-up calls offered “to help young people develop a routine”.

Today, the controversial move was criticised by opposition MPs, who said it was time the Government took the problem of youth unemployment seriously.

Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Children and Families, said: “Any action to help young people find employment or training opportunities is welcome, but this scheme is too little, too late.

“It will hardly make a dent in the million-plus Neets across the country.

“It also comes at a time when the loss of EMA for pupils from low-income backgrounds is hitting college enrolments and the double-dip recession made in Downing Street is limiting the opportunities available for young people in Sunderland.

“If Nick Clegg is serious about helping young people into work, his government needs to implement a serious plan for jobs and growth.”

The scheme will see charities and businesses paid by results and up to 55,000 youngsters return to college or find jobs.

Organisations can receive up to £2,200 for every child helped, but the full amount will only be paid if a young person is still in full-time education, training or work six months later.

North East Lib Dem MEP Fiona Hall said: “Having thousands of young people out of work and education is damaging for them and the North East as a whole.

“Without the investment, there is a real risk these youngsters would be left stranded without the skills or education to improve their lot in life.

“It’s right that we find the money to support 16 and 17-year-olds that currently have little to fill their days.

“Tackling youth unemployment is a key priority for the Liberal Democrats in Government and the announcement is an important step towards a brighter future for thousands of North East teenagers.”

Business leaders in the North East welcomed the investment, but highlighted the need for a wider package of support.

Jonathan Walker, head of member relations at the North East Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are pleased this investment recognises that reaching out to young people who are already unemployed is a top priority.

“This needs to be part of a wider package including better integration between the business and education communities to ensure young people are leaving with the skills required to get a job.”

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho