LEP employment programme supports 1,600 young people

A LEP programme to help reduce youth unemployment in the Leeds City Region has supported over 1,600 young people to take steps towards sustained employment.

The LEP’s Headstart programme began in early 2014 and was completed in March 2016. It provided flexible, local and work-focused support for 18-24 year olds that had been in receipt of Job Seeker’s Allowance for between six and nine months.

In addition to the number of young people supported, Headstart has returned a total impact worth £13.6m and contributed a net social value of almost £9m to the national economy - almost double the initial investment of £4.6m.

The Headstart programme, which was funded by the Cabinet Office, is part of a package of support from the LEP to tackle youth unemployment and contribute towards the long-term ambition to create a NEET-free (not in employment, education or training) City Region. In 2012, the number of young people in the City Region claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance was 28,500. Now, as a result of growth in the regional economy and local programmes such as Headstart, that number has fallen significantly to 8,890.

Stephanie Burras, Chief Executive of the Ahead Partnership and Chair of the LEP’s Employment and Skills Panel, said:

“We are delighted that our Headstart programme has helped over 1,600 young people gain work experience and move into sustained work or further training.

“Headstart, alongside our other youth unemployment schemes, such as our Devolved Youth Contract and Apprenticeship Programme, have made a real difference to youth unemployment in our region - demonstrated by the fact that the number of young people now claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance has reduced by two-thirds compared to four years ago.

“These programmes have helped significant numbers of young people in our region to get on, bringing us much closer to our ambition of becoming a NEET-free City Region.”

Cllr Peter Box, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority said:

“Headstart is an example of how devolution of skills funding and the flexibility to deliver programmes locally can deliver better outcomes for local people and the economy.

“Working in partnership with local authorities and Jobcentre Plus, I’m delighted that we’ve helped so many young people to develop the skills, confidence and experience to take meaningful steps towards employment.

“It is heartening to see the impact that the programme has had on young people’s lives, whist in turn providing a boost to the economy.”

The Headstart programme responded to local need by offering tailored support for individuals, including support, training and a guaranteed interview with a local employer, followed by up to six months of in-work support. One young person to benefit from this support was Charlotte who started on the Headstart programme when she was 20 years old after being unemployed on and off for around three years.

Charlotte said:

“After being unemployed for almost three years I had pretty much lost all confidence in myself, but Headstart has really helped me to see that I do have skills and things to offer an employer.

“After training I was paired with a job at the Denby Dale Centre working with elderly people. Everyone at the Denby Dale Centre has been really supportive and made me feel like a part of the team from day one, so I didn’t really need much in-work support, however it was reassuring to know that Mel, my in-work support officer, was at the end of the phone if I needed help with anything.

“All in all, Headstart has really helped me turn my life around. My six month Headstart contract has recently ended at the Denby Dale Centre but I’m happy to report that they have decided to keep me on and are looking at giving me a three year contract.”

Since 2012, the LEP and partners have supported over 6,000 young people into work, full time training and education through its employment programmes. You can hear some of these young people talking about their experience of Headstart and the difference it has made to their lives in the LEP’s film, which was released this week to mark the success of the programme.