Thursday 14 May 2009

Byrne: young will not become "lost generation"

Guest post by Paul Prowse

The government needed to “complete the unfinished business of Britain’s inner cities”, said Cabinet Office minister Liam Byrne at a Fabian debate, arguing that “many people simply lack power to get on… stopping a long way short of their potential.” The government needs to provide “access to skills development at all ages” and re-shape “local public services into centres of local community,” he said.

Although the current economic "maelstrom" was hitting already deprived urban communities hard, Byrne believed that “it’s a myth that aspiration is lower in poor inner city areas”.

He spoke from personal experience in his role as MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, citing research that revealed 80% of those aged under-16 in his constituency (the fourth most deprived ward in the country) say they want to go to college or university.

However, too many students still fall by the wayside and leave school without going into further education, training or employment, he said.

Speaking at the event, Mary Abdo from the Young Foundation argued that there was still a class gap on this issue from a very early age: “56% of children with professional parents wish to go on and have a professional career themselves. Only 13% of children with partly skilled parents wish to have a professional career.”

Byrne reiterated that the government was determined the young would not become a "lost generation" due to the economic crisis, acknowledging the warning of the Bank of England’s Danny Blanchflower that “unemployment when young creates scars, not temporary blemishes.”

It was for this reason that Byrne believes it is all the more crucial to challenge the Conservative’s “fetish to roll back the state”, arguing that David Cameron’s dedication to a government “age of austerity” will hit the poorest hardest.

He continued: “There has to be a readiness to invest and invest big to get through this.” Byrne acknowledged that industry investment and the provision of employment, training and apprenticeship schemes would be “massively expensive” but that it was in the country’s long-term economic interests, and that “if it prevents a lost generation, it’s a price worth paying.”

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