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IT shortcomings undermine youth programme



Employment group says the Government has no idea if Youth Obligation programme is working due to lack of data

Ministers have admitted they are unable to collect data to find out if jobless young people are finding work or training after leaving a scheme set up by the Government.

It follows claims that the Youth Obligation programme may be a “dead duck”, because the IT system used in universal credit is not providing data to show if it is succeeding or failing.

A total of 24,600 have joined the programme since its launch last year, but only 9,300 remain – with no information about what the remaining 15,300 young people are now doing.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) did not dispute a claim that IT weaknesses within universal credit prevented it tracking people on the scheme.

Stephen Timms (pictured), the Labour MP who uncovered the failure, told The Independent: “It is extraordinarily negligent not to collect the data for the programme.  Without it, they have no idea if it is succeeding or failing.”

The Employment Related Services Organisation (ERSA), which represents groups providing support for the unemployed, described the situation as “bizarre”.

It has been told that universal credit’s IT system had left ministers in the dark about whether young people were moving into jobs, onto training places, or “falling out” of the scheme.

“The Government has no idea whether its flagship Youth Obligation is either steaming ahead or a dead duck,” warned Kirsty McHugh, ERSA’s chief executive.

The Youth Obligation, introduced in April 2017, promised intensive help from specialist jobcentre advisers to help 18 to 21-year-olds put together applications and perform well in interviews. But it is being introduced only gradually, alongside claims for universal credit, which means it has only reached around 300 jobcentres out of more than 5,000.


Timms tabled a parliamentary question asking “how many claimants on the Youth Obligation offer since April 2017 have moved into employment lasting over six months?".

In reply, Alok Sharma, the work minister, said: “To answer this would require identifying which claimants have ended their Youth Obligation Support Programme journey, and then match this with records from HMRC to determine their employment status over the subsequent six months. Therefore providing this information would incur disproportionate cost.”

In separate answers, Sharma disclosed that 24,600 young people have joined the Youth Obligation since it got underway in April 2017, of whom 9,300 remained by February 2018.

But he added: “It is not possible to say how many of them have subsequently gone on to (a) an apprenticeship (b) a traineeship and (c) a work placement without checking individual records, which would incur disproportionate cost.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “Over 24,000 young people have started our programme which consists of a host of proven methods to help individuals into work, like support to access training, develop a CV and meet employers.

“We do not ask participants to declare their employment status after leaving the programme.”

Image by Chris McAndrew, CC BY 3.0

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