News that youth unemployment in the UK has hit a record high has coincided with a promise by government to carry out a full evaluation of a fund used by hundreds of social enterprises to create thousands of jobs for young people.
The Future Jobs Fund (FJF) was a £1bn initiative set up by the Labour government as a response to the recession. It was used to fund six-month jobs for mainly young, long-term unemployed people in social enterprises, local authorities and charities on the proviso that the jobs were ‘additional’ and so would not have existed without the funding, and that the jobs created community benefit.
It was axed by the Coalition government as a cost saving measure and criticised as being too expensive.
However, an influential group of MPs recently called for a full evaluation of the programme and the government yesterday published a response [below] which promised an evaluation will take place and that the evaluation will be fed into a cost-benefit analysis of the FJF.
Ben Donnelly, CEO of Elixir Foundations, a recycling social enterprise based in Liverpool that works with those furthest from the workforce, was able to create 345 jobs thanks to the FJF. He said he ‘really welcomed’ the news of the evaluation, especially given the national youth unemployment rate for 16-24 year-olds of 20.6 per cent.
‘It’s sad out there for young people at the moment,’ said Donnelly. ‘The FJF worked and was successful on many levels.
‘It gave employers the opportunities to create those chances, and it gave those young people the opportunity to take advantage of them and because it was a real wage going into their bank accounts it gave them the opportunity to gain their independence, build their self esteem and confidence.’
He also called on the evaluation to look at the positive impact created by the growth of the social enterprises that took on the FJF employees.
‘I think it would be foolish to ignore the social and environmental impact as well and I think it’s essential to analyse the true impact of it – that the government recognise it was more than just jobs creation, it was also a business stimulus in a difficult economic climate.’
Donnelly’s call was echoed by Michelle Richmond, FJF programme manager at Social Enterprise London.
She said it was ‘brilliant news’ that the government was carrying out an evaluation looking at cost-benefit analysis and that this should also include social impact.
‘The FJF has been called expensive but if you look at the return on investment it probably is cost effective,’ said Richmond.
She added: ‘We really welcome the fact the government is taking the time to conduct a thorough investigation because we think it should be fed into the Work Programme and if it can’t fit into the Work Programme as it is than there should be a separate programme created.
‘We’re not saying the FJF is perfect but we’ve seen some incredible results, and the employers we work with are still phoning up every week so they were really able to work with it and they’re ready to go if something like this was launched again.’
Meanwhile, the Labour party has called for a £600m fund for youth jobs to be paid for by a tax on bank bonuses. However, Labour did not respond to requests from Social Enterprise about the details of the fund and whether it should follow the FJF model.