YOUTH unemployment in Leigh has risen by a massive 89 per cent in the past 18 months.
Shocking new figures have revealed there are now 270 people aged between 18 and 24 who have been claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance for more than six months in the parliamentary constituency of Leigh.
This is almost double the number of unemployed young people in Leigh recorded in May 2010 when the last general election was held, and a rise of 86 percent from 145 in January this year.
Leigh MP Andy Burnham has called for a crisis meeting with Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce to be held early next year to discuss how best to get young people in the town into work.
Mr Burnham blamed the sharp rise in unemployment on a range of factors, including the loss of Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) which was paid to students in lower-income households to stay in education beyond GCSE level, and the cancelling of the Future Jobs Fund, a government subsidy formerly paid to firms taking on young people in unemployment hotspots.
Mr Burnham said: “The figures are just absolutely horrific. Our young people are paying a brutal price for the failures of this Tory-led Government.
“It’s not necessarily a case of finding permanent employment straight away, but a constructive opportunity that keeps people positive, such as volunteering while they look for work. If that could be subsidised it might help.
“I’m calling on councils and businesses across Greater Manchester to pull together to see what more we can do to give hope to our young people.
“We have got to do something.”
Mr Burnham said he welcomed the arrival of new supermarkets and The Loom development into Leigh, which it is hoped will provide hundreds of new jobs in the retail sector.
He said: “The supermarkets are already taking Leigh people on, and I believe the new cinema is being staffed almost entirely by young people from the Leigh area, so maybe the figures will look better the next time they come out.
“However, even though there are opportunities opening up in town at the moment, the scale of youth unemployment is still a big worry.”
There are currently several schemes working in Leigh to help young people get into work by completing their education and doing apprenticeships, such as Active Synergy, which is based at the Leigh Sports Village and uses sport to engage young people.
Programme Manager Neil Gamewell said he was not surprised by the scale of youth unemployment in the town and called for urgent investment to tackle the issue.
He said: “Last week’s NEET figures show how desperate matters are and should be seen as a call for action for employers in Leigh.”