Innovation Fund for Young People

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 26 January 2015.

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Photo of Stephen Mosley Stephen Mosley Conservative, City of Chester 2:30, 26 January 2015

What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the innovation fund for young people.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I set up the £30 million innovation fund four years ago to test cutting-edge projects for helping disadvantaged young people: some of those most at risk of becoming NEET—not in education, employment or training—or falling in with gangs. Using social impact bonds, these projects are now proving they can deliver a return on the investment; 16,600 positive educational and employment outcomes have been achieved, each one an improvement in a young person’s prospects.

Photo of Stephen Mosley Stephen Mosley Conservative, City of Chester

One key factor of the innovation fund is the use of social investment. How effective does my right hon. Friend think social investment has been? What future does he foresee for social investment in future projects from his Department?

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The interesting thing about this development, which I hope has support on both sides of the House, is that these social investment bonds have advanced dramatically in the past four years, making the UK now a world leader in this, with lots of different Governments coming to ask how to implement it. With the tax relief that we have granted to social investment bonds, the future funding in many of these projects will involve more and more decisions being able to be taken by local government; it will be able to set individual projects up and fund them, without recourse to government, but with a return. So we will be paying for things that happen rather than things that might happen—that is the key.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health)

But ending the wage incentive part of the Youth Contract eight months early was a tacit admission of its failure. Only 10,000 young people completed the contract, whereas 160,000 were budgeted for. Can the Secretary of State tell us what went wrong?

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

What went wrong was the Youth Contract, full stop. The money used for the Youth Contract actually went to invest in people who had greatest disadvantage, and when we set up our other programmes, including the Work programme, we outperformed anything the Youth Contract had. Furthermore, work experience was not available to young people under the previous Government for any great length of time, whereas we have had more than 50% of people on those work experience programmes go back to work. More young people are in work now than when we came into office; they were left by the disaster of the previous Government.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

Young people remain at a distinct disadvantage in the labour market. The statistics published last week show that for the third month in a row overall unemployment came down but youth unemployment rose. Does the Secretary of State have any new proposals to tackle this problem of currently rising youth unemployment?

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has actually looked at the figures correctly. He will find that under this Government youth unemployment has fallen; there are now more young people in work; and youth unemployment is at a lower level than the previous Government left us in 2010, after they crashed the economy. I might also remind him that they used to put young people on short-term programmes. As soon as they did that, they took them off the register and started them as though they had begun looking for work then, rather than being six months in. The previous Government gerrymandered the figures and they still failed.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

At the time of the general election the rate of youth unemployment was two and a half times the overall level of unemployment. Since then, the relative position of young people has steadily worsened, to the point where last week the youth unemployment rate was 2.9 times the overall rate of unemployment. Judging by his answer, the Secretary of State may not have noticed that youth unemployment is currently going up. Is it not now high time for a compulsory job guarantee, so that young people have the chance of a job at the start of what should be their working lives, instead of spending years on unemployment benefit?

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The reality is quite different from that set out by the right hon. Gentleman. Youth unemployment is down 171,000 on the year—nearly a fifth; 7.1% of all young people are unemployed and not in full-time education; and the number of young people on jobseeker’s allowance has fallen every month for that past three years. The truth about this is quite the opposite to that he suggests. The previous Government left us with young people unable to get work experience and unable to get jobs, and a real stagnation problem, with young people not being able to get the skills necessary. Youth unemployment is now falling. Youth employment is rising—[Interruption.] No; since the last Parliament youth unemployment has fallen. Youth employment is rising. Once in a while it would be nice if the right hon. Gentleman got up and said, “You know what, the last Government got it wrong. Thank you for getting it right.”