Concern as jobless under-20s rise

FIGURES which show youth unemployment in Suffolk is the highest in the East of England and above the national average have been described as worrying.

Anthony Bond

FIGURES which show youth unemployment in Suffolk is the highest in the East of England and above the national average have been described as worrying.

The percentage of unemployed people under 20 in the region stands at 13.1%, according to recent figures by the Suffolk Development Agency.

This compares to 10% in Bedfordshire and 10.8% in Norfolk. The average for the East of England is 11.4% while the figure for Great Britain stands at 11.1%.

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David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds, demanded to know last night why Suffolk's youth unemployment rates were higher than the national average.

“These are very worrying figures considering that for most of the last decade Suffolk's unemployment record was fairly reasonable. I want to know why youth unemployment is not only worse than the rest of the East of England but it is lagging behind the national average. What sectors in Suffolk are doing badly and what is the Suffolk Development Agency's strategy to help them?

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The figures reveal that youth unemployment in the region has increased year on year since 2005 - up from 12.1%. During that time youth unemployment dropped in Essex, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said the problems related to those aged between 18 and 20, but said there were a number of positive initiatives now taking place.

“The overall unemployment figure for Suffolk is in line, if not better, than the national average,” he said. “However I do agree that there is an issue, as the statistics show, with unemployment figures for the under-20s. This is caused by a number of issues, not least such things as the rural nature of the region and the pockets of deprivation that there are in the county.

“But there are positive projects in place to address these issues and I am aware of a number of initiatives that are being rolled out by agencies.”

Mr Dugmore added that 16-18-year-old participation in further education is improving year on year in the county and the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has recently launched a Young Chamber which aims to engage youngsters in the world of work.

George Ashford, economic intelligence manager at Suffolk Development Agency, added: “Unemployment amongst our younger population has been a key issue in recent years. Whilst it remains high, a number of organisations are being very proactive in their approach to solving the problem. Through the county's economic development strategy, Expanding Suffolk's Horizons the Suffolk Development Agency is working with the Learning and Skills Council, JobCentre Plus and Connexions on a number of initiatives aimed at getting young people into work.”

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