Ed Miliband has announced that 18-21 year olds will no longer have an entitlement to Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), but will be eligible for a means-tested training allowance.  The proposal appears to be based on an IRRP report, No More Neets, published in November of last year.

A report in The Guardian suggests that the loss of entitlement applies to young people with a qualification below Level 3 (equivalent to an A level or BTEC National Certificate) and would affect 70 per cent of 18-21 year olds.  The proposal is not simply about improving the school to work transition or the competitiveness and productivity of the UK economy, but also about saving public expenditure (an initial saving of £65m).  However, it’s not clear if the saving estimate includes the additional investments costs that training providers will incur to establish the extra capacity required for taking on more trainees or administrative costs.  Presumably the training will be accredited, otherwise why would prospective employers take the programme into account in recruitment decisions, and this will require someone (OFSTED?) to act as a regulator.

There are three potential issues that a future Labour Government would have to consider if the proposal is to be successfully realised.  The first is the quality of the training (hence the need for monitoring and regulation).  Past youth training schemes haven’t always enjoyed a good reputation in terms of the standard of training.  It’s critical that, at least this time, high quality training is provided.  Secondly, there are always exception – young people who should not be subject to this regime, for instance, those estranged from their parents or will young children.  Thirdly and critically, this is a policy addressing the symptoms of an education system that is not fit for purpose.  A ‘proper’ education system would obviate the need for this programme.  So at best it should be regarded as a short-term fix, whilst more fundamental changes are made elsewhere.