The Government has been urged to overhaul youth services so that councils can do more to tackle unemployment among young people. The Local Government Association (LGA) said almost every young person could be in work or learning by 2020 if councils were given more responsibility to run job schemes.
The LGA said councils in Wales and England had overseen a 44% drop in the number of 16 to 18-year-olds not in education or work over the past five years, compared with 7.5% for schemes run by central government for 19 to 24-year-olds.
Council-led versions of the national Youth Contract have helped a much bigger proportion of youngsters, said the report.
Other schemes run by councils including Surrey, Suffolk and Norfolk have successfully helped young people find jobs, said the LGA.
David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “Local government has high ambitions for our young people and in areas where councils have taken the lead and driven forward schemes to ensure every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential, we are seeing fantastic results with the number of teenagers disengaging now at an all-time low.
“Government needs to allow councils and their local partners to fully take the lead and develop quality services that are built around the needs of young people and employers rather than complex national bureaucracies.
“As the most trusted part of the public sector, councils are best placed to build upon current innovation, integrate and transform services to ensure every child receives a fair chance in life.
“Across the country, we are seeing dramatic falls in the number of Neets (not in employment, education or training) where councils are seizing the agenda, but in the face of bureaucratic burdens councils cannot sustain this forever.
“Local solutions are clearly proving to be the answer and government needs to act now to allow councils to drive it forward and help all young people reach their potential.”
In a separate report, Saga challenged the “myth” that older people were denying jobs to youngsters by working later in life.
A study found that older people spent more of their income on services and goods, helping to create jobs.
Lance Batchelor, Saga’s chief executive, said: “Those that say that by working longer, older people squeeze the young out of work, are peddling a dangerous myth and one that sets up a wholly unfair inter-generational antagonism.
“The fact that retirement is more a process than an event is something to be celebrated. Older people provide a great deal of life and work experience and the fact that they choose to work for longer, either full or part time, is something that society ought to celebrate not vilify.”
The reports were published ahead of the latest unemployment figures.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “Jobcentres already work closely with local authorities, charities and voluntary organisations to tailor support to meet the needs of their local community, which means that every day they are helping young people get off benefits and into a job.
“Already, the number of young people in jobs is going up and youth unemployment excluding those in full-time education is now at its lowest level since 2008. But there is always more to do which is why we recent launched pilot schemes to help 16 and 17-year-olds, and will continue to support young people to get their foot in the door and have the skills they need to secure their future.”