Illawarra Employment Services At Risk

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Local Members Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones say they are outraged at possible plans by the Abbott Government to cut funding for vital employment services in the Illawarra in next week’s Budget.

Ms Bird and Mr Jones today met with national CEO of the Youth Connections program and staff at Access Community Group to discuss concerns the program, which was implemented by Labor in 2010, will not be continued beyond the end of 2014, despite helping more than 75,000 young people re-engage with education and employment.

“If someone drops out of school for any reason, it is important we make sure they get a second chance”, said Ms Bird.

“Completing Year 12 is incredibly important – it reduces the risk of unemployment and leads to higher earnings.”

Stephen Jones says the Illawarra has the second highest rate of youth unemployment in New South Wales, second only to Parramatta.

“The Youth Connections program is designed to make sure that young people who drop out of school are given the support to get back into the classroom or given a pathway into the workforce.”

“It is an absolutely vital service. If young people slip through the cracks, the consequences of long-term unemployment can last a lifetime.”

Sharon Bird says the Youth Connections has had an extraordinary success rate, with more than 80 per cent of people who access the services, still in education or employment after two years.

“These figures show that Youth Connections is effectively supporting disengaged young people and increasing their capacity to become productive and contributing members of our community”, said Ms Bird.  

“At a time of rising youth unemployment, cutting these services would be incredibly short-sighted.”

Stephen Jones says the funding cut comes on top of Abbott Government plans to axe the position of Local Employment Coordinator for the Illawarra region and the Better Futures, Local Solutions community-based employment program in next week’s Budget.

“Unemployment in the Illawarra is much higher than the national average, which is why when Labor was in Government, we assigned the region one of 21 Local Employment Coordinators”, said Jones.

“Our Local Employment Coordinator has spent years assisting retrenched workers and other job seekers to connect with employment and training opportunities, as well as working with local employers and community organisations to help disadvantaged young people back into the workforce.”

“One of the most successful programs they’ve helped deliver locally is Better Futures, Local Solutions, which provides funding for community-based employment and training programs in the Shellharbour Local Government Area.”

Some of the successful Better Futures, Local Solutions programs include $87,699 for a training and work experience program in the mining industry for unemployed youths, and $286,345 for Access Community Group to provide training courses to young vulnerable people, including Aboriginal people and young parents and matching them with employment in local small businesses.  

“Youth Connections, Better Futures and our Local Employment Coordinator all provide vital employment services for the people of the Illawarra”, said Jones.

“Without their support, young people especially will find it increasingly harder and harder to find work in our region.”

“Its clear Tony Abbott has no plans for jobs, only plans for cuts”, said Ms Bird.

“The Illawarra community needs to put pressure on the Government right now so that we don’t see Access Community Group and other local services close their at the end of 2014, leaving our most disadvantaged youths behind.”

6 May 2014