Jack Stoker, Liberal Democrat member in Wearside writes on behalf of 'Youth Action Worx' about his fight to change government legislation to help those in the care system enter the world of work:
We believe that every young person regardless of circumstance and upbringing deserves the same chances at prospering in life and contributing to society. There are roughly 34,000 care leavers currently in the UK. In the current situation, 34% of all care leavers are not in education, employment or training (NEET). This equates to 10,347 young people who leave social care not contributing to the economy. If you compare this to the 7.8% of 16 to 18 year olds who are not in education, employment or training (NEET), it is significantly lower than those who leave the care system. Therefore, we can see the difficulty they face when trying to enter the world of work. Our aim is to eliminate this disparity between social care and traditional upbringings.
The Liberal Democrats are founded on the principle of freedom of opportunity for the individual; giving them the choice to further their life and ambitions through the path they think is best for them. In the current situation care leavers face difficulty in acquiring apprenticeships, due to the upheaval and turmoil they have faced during their school career, causing them through no fault of their own to statistically have lower grades at GCSE than their traditional family counter-parts. 27% of care leavers achieve 5 A*-C , compared to 68.8% of everyone else. Because of this statistic they don’t have the opportunity to take up an apprenticeship. We want to see an increase in the number of exit qualifications offered to care leavers in order to accommodate for the statistically lower level of qualifications they achieve.
This policy builds on the work of the coalition, which from 2010 onwards championed a more vocational style of education for those who felt higher education wasn’t for them. However there is still work to do in ensuring equality across the spectrum of employment opportunities. We need to build on the work that the former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Sir Vince Cable has done: work in parliament with the Conservative government to ensure that our 3 million-plus apprentices become more representative of society as a whole.
In order to do so we want to encourage business through a subsidy directly from the government. We believe the private sector can experience growth through the currently unrecognised potential of care leavers. Not only can we further the gains of British business with a larger workforce and a lower unit labour cost, we can make a difference to the 10’s of thousands of young people who have had the hardest start in life and ensure they have more opportunity to make something of themselves. Not only is this good for business, it is good for the care leavers and good for society.
We propose to do this via amendments to the government’s proposed apprenticeship levy;
- Every employer with the availability to hire an apprentice is taxed.
- Once said business hires an apprentice they are subsidised the exact amount they were taxed.
- If said business hires a care leaver apprentice they are subsidised the exact amount back, plus an extra subsidy to aid the care leaver in the role.
- The extra subsidy for these businesses to be financed from taxes not reimbursed to other companies that did not hire any apprentices.
- The scheme is fiscally negligible for the government.
- It will reduce the welfare bill, by taking the dependency of care leavers away from the state and into a paying job.
**Jack Stoker has been involved in youth democracy for nearly four years and has achieved a great many things; starting with getting more young people engaged with politics by teaching it within schools, in a manner which makes young people want be a part of the “bigger picture”, all the way through to being at the forefront of a process in which to try and create an LGBT engagement group in Sunderland as there is nothing already in place. Currently Jack is working with Youth Action Worx and Bernados and also trying to have a better standard of sex education taught in school.