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Tuesday, 8th April 2014 at 10:56 am

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Youth Employment Program on the Chopping Block

By Staff Reporter,

The national peak body for Not for Profits that assist unemployed people into work, Jobs Australia, has  warned that the Federal Coalition Government may end funding for a specialised youth service that helps address the youth unemployment crisis in Australia.

Funding for the Youth Connections program, which provides funding to local youth services to support young people at risk of disengaging from education and work, runs out at the end of the year.

Jobs Australia CEO David Thompson said the service was needed more than ever and should be extended or replaced with a similar service.

“There is a growing crisis in Australia of youth unemployment and disengagement. Some young people need a lot of support to successfully overcome the challenges and issues in their lives that are holding them back,” Thompson said.

“Cutting this program makes no sense from an economic perspective: with an ageing population, we need more young people participating in work.

“It makes no sense from a social perspective: because if we don’t make the effort to keep young people engaged in education and work, then there’s a greater risk that they’ll engage in anti-social behaviour.

“And it makes no sense from a Budget perspective because giving up on young people means more of them will end up on the dole, costing the Government money, rather than paying taxes.

“Youth Connections fills a critical gap in services and with youth unemployment at crisis levels in some areas, it’s just not the time to be cutting a programme like this.”

Jobs Australia’s call comes as Youth Connections released new data this week, coinciding with Youth Week, that showed that the program was very effective at helping severely disengaged young people.

“This is a highly successful program, supporting 30,000 young people each year.  When we have national youth unemployment at 12.2 per cent and many regions as high as 20 per cent we cannot afford to end assistance now,”  Youth Connections National Executive Officer Rebekha Sharkie said.

“What’s more, 93 per cent of young people in the program who had reconnected with education, training or employment for at least 13 weeks, were still working or studying six months after Youth Connections.

“That’s an extraordinary level of success and shows that this programme is too important to face the chopping block.”

Sharkie called upon the Government to allocate funding for a youth transitions service beyond 2014 in this year’s Budget.

“There’s a very real risk that without a dedicated youth service, more young people will leave school early and really struggle to make the transition to employment,” she said.

“With a rising unemployment rate in Australia, it’s getting harder and harder to get a job if you don’t have Year 12 or qualifications that employers need.

“It costs on average $2,500 for a person to be assisted on Youth Connections, when you look at annual costs of $20,000 for a young person to be on Youth Allowance, it just makes logical economic sense to provide the support.

“If young people can’t get the support they need, then where will they go? What will they do?”

Download the report: Youth Connections – Destination Study: Where are they now? “Class of 2012”.

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