Suffolk: Chamber warns against bureaucracy in Youth Contract scheme

SUFFOLK Chamber of Commerce has warned that a Government initiative to get more young people into work will have to be “business friendly” if it is to achieve its objectives.

Official figures today showed a further increase of 22,000 in youth unemployment during the last three months of 2011 to 1.04million.

The figures follow hard on the heels of a call by Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg for businesses to sign up to the Government’s �1billion Youth Contract scheme.

From April, firms which take on young people aged between 18 and 24 will be eligible to receive a contribution towards their wages worth �2,275, with a target of supporting at least 410,000 new work places.

Thousands of companies are to receive a joint letter from Mr Clegg and Employment Minister Chris Grayling urging them to take up the initiative.

“Getting young people earning or learning is my top priority, and that’s what the Youth Contract is going to do,” said Mr Clegg.

“This is a significant moment and a call to arms for businesses to offer long-term opportunities to young people who are out of work.”

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Suffolk Chamber chief executive John Dugmore today welcomed the initiative but said it was important for the Government to ensure that it was as easy as possible for firm’s to claim the money.

“At a time of high youth unemployment, and especially with today’s latest unemployment figures showing another 48,000 people out of work, any incentives to get young people into the workplace are welcome,” said Mr Dugmore.

“The Youth Contract will go a long way to giving employers the much-needed encouragement they need to hire young people. Employers often spend a large amount of time and money training up those not in education, employment or training (NEETs).

“The proposal to pay employers half of the minimum wage payment for the first six months will help businesses offset this cost.”

However, Mr Dugmore said the system for employers to claim the payment needed to be reliable and involve a minimum of bureaucracy. This was particularly important for smaller firms which need payment quickly to compensate for the initial costs of recruitment and basic training.

“Employers must have a clear point of contact, and any administrative burden should be kept to a minimum.” he added. “Businesses are ready to do their bit, and the Youth Contract will provide a much-needed jobs boost for the young.

“But this scheme aims to help young people who are removed from the labour market, and could pose a considerable risk for employers. This is why contracts should be as flexible as possible to incentivise more firms to give these young people a chance.”