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Tories ‘writing off’ young people as growing number ‘economically inactive’

Labour has accused the Government of writing off young people (John Stillwell/PA)
Labour has accused the Government of writing off young people (John Stillwell/PA)

The Tories are “writing off” young people, Labour has said, with the number of young people out of work due to “long-term sickness” doubling since 2010.

Sir Keir Starmer’s party said that in 2010/11, there were 116,000 16 to 24-year-olds out of work or not looking for employment due to long-term sickness.

The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data for the whole of the UK now puts this number at 235,000 people out of work, the party said.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Liz Kendall said: “By neglecting the foundations needed for a healthy economy, the Tories are writing off hundreds of thousands of young people.”

The Labour MP said her party would ensure young people do not fall between the cracks between services and Government departments.

It hopes that improving mental health services, as well as reducing NHS waiting lists and strengthening workers’ rights, will help tackle the “root causes” of economic inactivity.

Ms Kendall said: “Labour will tackle the root causes of economic inactivity, including the mental health crisis facing so many of our young people.

“We will transform mental health services, drive down NHS waiting lists, boost skills, bolster employment rights and provide tailored job support.”

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride have both sought to get people of all ages back into the workplace, in a bid to boost labour supply across the UK.

The proportion of people out of work rose since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, but the issue is also seen to be caused by a broader set of factors including rising disability and long-term sickness levels.

A Government spokesperson said: “We are driving down inactivity and helping young people into work as we build on our track record of youth unemployment falling by 43% since 2010.

“We are investing £2.3 billion into mental health services and supporting more 16 and 17-year-olds to participate in education and apprenticeships.

“More widely our Back to Work Plan will help up to 1.1 million people with long-term health conditions, disabilities or long-term unemployed to look for and stay in work.”

A Conservative spokesman accused Labour of having a “brass neck”, saying the party had “never left office with unemployment lower than what they inherited”.