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Young people struggling without support as redundancies surge

Redundancies rose by 370,000 between August and October and that has left young workers heading to education instead of work, but only if they can afford it
Image credit: Tim Gouw/Pexels

Shannon was working as a receptionist when the pandemic started. She’d been at the indoor skiing and snowboarding centre in West London for two and a half years but, like so many, her employment was brought to an abrupt halt.

The latest statistics revealed 370,000 people were let go between August and October. The Office for National Statistics figures revealed an unprecedented 217,000 extra in redundancies for the quarter as the impact of reduced footfall on retail and hospitality continue to bite alongside uncertainty over the future of the furlough scheme in October.

Shannon, 22, struggled to find work since losing her job. Unlike many she had the help of youth homelessness charity Centrepoint. She entered the care system at seven years old and has received support from the charity since she left at 18.

“Losing my job meant I had to really think about what I wanted and where I wanted to go so I decided to go to uni instead,” she said, studying fashion at london Metropolitan University. The financial support from Centrepoint has helped her stay on her feet. 

“If it wasn’t for that then I would be in a completely different situation I’d say.”

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In the latest ONS figures, companies reported 820,000 fewer employees on company payrolls in November. The UK unemployment rate rose to 4.9 per cent. The Office for Budget Responsibility is forecasting unemployment will peak at 7.5 per cent next year, meaning 2.6 million people would be out of work.

The decline in the number of businesses planning redundancies in the next three months, also reported in the figures, is some respite for the country at large but will do little to ease the pain of those already out of work.

Young people working in low-paying jobs, like Shannon, have borne the brunt of the job losses this year. In October, the London School of Economics found 11 per cent of people between 16 and 25 had lost their job in the two months prior, compared to 4.6 per cent for those aged over 26.

Shannon told The Big Issue cash support from youth homelessness charity Centrepoint was vital to help her switch to education when work dried up. She believes that the many young people who have lost their job like her need financial support to stave off homelessness.

“If Centrepoint wasn’t there when I was 18 then I would have been homeless,” she said. “Without them a lot more young people would be in the same situation. With 24,000 young people homeless this Christmas that’s a lot of people to go through such hardship.”

The bursary she receives has made all the difference, she said, but it is not an option for the vast majority. 

“Having that little bit of extra money was a weight lifted off my shoulders. I think that kind of cash support would help other young people like me who are independent.”

And she is not alone. Recent recommendations from Build Back Fairer: The COVID-19 Marmot Review, from Professor Sir Michael Marmot, director of UCL’s Institute of Health Equity, included additional funding to train young people among a raf tof measures to address the UK’s yawning inequality.

“Can the country afford it? Absolutely,” said Sir Michael. “We tried the austerity experiment, we did that in 2010, and health stopped improving, inequalities got worse, and health for the poorest people went down.

“That experiment didn’t work, so we know what doesn’t work. So I ask you, can we afford not to do it?”

Shannon insists that losing her job has had an impact on her mental health but she is still committed to reaching her goal of founding an organisation to help disadvantaged young people to be creative.

She added: “I do suffer with anxiety and depression and I think it is important to be open about that to help others.

“It’s been quite up and down this year for me – losing my job caused a lot of stress. But I felt quite supported through everything thanks to Centrepoint and my family and friends so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I’m thankful for that.”

Shannon P
Shannon, 22, is grateful for the support she receives from Centrepoint. Image credit: Centrepoint

The ONS redundancy figures paint a “deeply worrying picture”, said Rebecca McDonald, senior economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The charity warned of rising destitution in the UK just last week and have reiterated their calls for the £20 Universal Credit increase to be made permanent..

McDonald said: “Throughout the pandemic unemployment has risen most in sectors with high levels of low pay, like hospitality – the economic fallout from the virus is being shouldered by our poorest workers. This just isn’t right.

“This economic crisis has a long way to run. Yet the Chancellor is still planning to reverse the £20 a week increase to Universal Credit at the end of March. The Chancellor must now do the right thing.” 

The Big Issue’s Ride Out Recession Alliance is bringing together charities, businesses and campaigners to protect jobs and prevent homelessness. You can keep track of the campaign by heading to bigissue.com/rora to sign up to receive a weekly newsletter or join the new RORA Facebook group. And don’t forget to tell us your ideas of how to protect jobs and boost the Covid-19 recovery at rora@bigissue.com.