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Monday, January 05, 2009

Age of consent

It is always dangerous to rely on a newspaper for news especially when the article is as speculative as this one, however this morning's Guardian does raise some issues that deserve consideration, even if they have got it wrong.

The paper claims that the government is considering raising the school-leaving age to 18 immediately, as a way of combating the huge rise in unemployment, particularly among the young, that it expects to see this year. They say that there are also proposals to accelerate the filling of existing vacancies at local authorities.

The Government has of course already passed legislation that will ensure that all 16 and 17-year-olds remain in school, training or an apprenticeship until they are 18, but that only applies to children who turn 11 this year, and so does not effectively start for another five years.

However, the paper argues that because the 137,000 rise in those unemployed in the three months to October contained 55,000, or 40%, who were in the 18-24 age bracket then this has prompted a radical re-think. They say that while the country's overall jobless rate is currently 6%, among 18-24-year-olds it is 14% and among 16-17-year-olds it is 26%.

Personally, I was never happy with the original legislation. It seemed to me to be unnecessarily restrictive to force 16-18 year olds to stay in education or training and that such a measure will only cause problems for those earmarked to teach or train these young people. After all, it is not easy dealing with reluctant pupils, especially when they feel that government legislation is taking away their freedom to choose.

Do not misunderstand me. I am all in favour of more investment in 16-19 education and training, offering more choice to those who want to continue down that route. That is a long overdue investment. But these young adults must have the freedom to find employment if they wish, even if that work does not contain a training element. And let us face it, there is no point in extending formal education and training if there is no employment at the end of it.

And that is the point. Bringing forward this provision so that it becomes effective immediately rather than 2014 or 2015, smacks of desperation on the part of the government. They are manipulating the statistics rather than offering real opportunity. It does take time to put the relevant training places and apprenticeships in place and my best guess is that the providers are nowhere near ready. There is certainly no guarantee that there will be jobs for these youngsters in two years time.

I was also quite amused by the suggestion that local Councils should accelerate the filling of existing vacancies. Many of these jobs are being kept vacant because local authorities cannot afford to fill them. A lot will disappear in the current budget round as efficiency savings. If the government is going to massively boost the resources available to councils so as to rectify that then that is all well and good, but we all know that is not going to happen.

Like many other proposals this is just spin put in place so that others can be blamed for not delivering. If the Guardian piece is to be considered accurate then the government needs to do better.
Perhaps WAG should finalised it's budgets quicker as well.

A lot of jobs depend on WAG approving submissions for budgets, specifically in the third sector, so come 1st April, the money should be in the bank to run various, Drug, Alcohol, Housing, CYP projects.

WAG does seem to like holding onto money for serveral months past 1st April. This just holds up essential services.

Keep an eye out for WAG departments doing this Peter.
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