According to research carried out by my office, unemployment in Sheffield Hallam has increased by 158%, with young workers being most affected. 16-24 year-olds in Hallam faced a 300% increase in unemployment between March and September of this year.
These figures are unacceptable. Young people in Hallam, many of whom are employed in insecure work, have been failed by the Government’s on-again off-again Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Many were made redundant after the Government led employers to believe the scheme would be coming to a close on 31st October. Had we known sooner about the extension of furlough, these job losses could have been avoided.
Whilst I welcome the government’s furlough scheme U-turn, there are still millions of freelancers, self-employed workers, and others who have slipped through the widening cracks in the support schemes. For them, a second lockdown means 4 more weeks of uncertainty, after having already suffered months of unemployment or a greatly reduced income.
As we begin a second national lockdown, we need assurance from the government that there will be no repeat failure to support young people, and that the inadequacies and exclusions of the current measures will be addressed so that no one falls through the cracks.
We also urgently need a plan for how we are going to emerge from this pandemic, and provide the opportunities people in Sheffield deserve. Young people across the country have made huge sacrifices during this pandemic. By investing in green industry & creating good, green jobs in our communities post pandemic, we can make sure there are opportunities for our young people now and in the future.
I raised this issue on BBC Radio Sheffield, and have written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak to share these findings and call for better, more consistent support.