Labour will not withhold NEET benefits, says Rachel Reeves

Rachel Reeves, the shadow work and pensions secretary, has rebuked claims that Labour will withhold unemployment benefits for under-25s not in education, employment or training (NEETS), tweeting, “This is not and will not be our policy.”

The reaction comes after The Daily Telegraph reported Labours interest in proposals in a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research, which calls for:

• A new youth allowance that would replace current unemployment benefits for 18–24-year-olds.

• A new youth guarantee to give young people access to further education or vocational training plus better job-hunting support. Those with no success after 6 months would be offered paid work experience and traineeships. If turned down, the allowance would be withdrawn.

• Large companies to provide apprenticeship opportunities to young people or pay a youth levy towards training costs.

Graeme Cooke, the IPPR research director, said: “Young people who fail to attain a good education or make early connections to the labour market face a far greater risk of future periods of unemployment and low earnings. The number of Neets in the UK is a scar on our nation and represents our generation’s failure in its responsibility to the next. Our goal should be to effectively abolish Neets, as they have successfully done in the Netherlands and Denmark.

“In contrast to previous initiatives and attempts at reform in this area – Connexions, the new deals, the Work Programme and the youth contract – this strategy aims to solve the fundamental failures of the school-to-work transition system, rather than making up for them. It creates the potential to drive improvements in further education and vocational training provision, alongside increasing employer engagement in the educational system. It includes those on inactive benefits and is built around practical activities not merely advice and guidance. And it seeks to restructure the opportunities and obligations facing young people through deep institutional reform.”