Putting young Victorians to work, to school

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Victoria’s next government is due to introduce a scheme to help unemployed young people return to work or education, according to a leading social advocacy body.

The so-called Youth Guarantee scheme is on the Victorian Council of Social Service’s state election wish list, released on Wednesday ahead of the November 26 poll.

The scheme would secure work, education or training opportunities for Victorians aged 15 to 24 within four months of becoming unemployed, council chief executive Emma King said.

“It’s a real game changer,” Ms King told AAP. “It would be transformative and truly change people’s lives.”

A similar program is already operating in the European Union, with more than 24 million young people starting a job or continuing their studies thanks to the programme.

Young Victorians would sign up for the guarantee or the services they are already connected to would link them to the scheme, Ms King said.

Young people have lost a lot of hope after lockdowns and a pandemic where things are tough,” she said.

“We keep coming back to this full job market, but it’s more difficult for people who are new to trying to get in.

“This (guarantee) is actually a source of hope and optimism.”

The council is confident that all political parties will commit to the guarantee ahead of the state election, as the program was a key part of a Victorian industry summit.

“By the time we started talking about it, there was deep interest at all levels,” Ms King said.

“It doesn’t matter if people come from an employee perspective or an employer perspective or, in our case, social services, there was no push back.”

The council’s election platform covers 12 areas, including loneliness, public and community housing, mental health reform and action on climate change.

Raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 is also a goal, with the council lobbying for the state government to also raise the minimum age for detention to at least 16.

Reforms are also needed to ensure that poor and disadvantaged people do not become criminals.

One way would be to reclassify offenses in the public space as begging and public nuisance, Ms King said.

“Rather than helping people and giving them the support they need, they end up clogging up our criminal justice system,” she said.

“What’s the moral way to actually support vulnerable people in our community? It’s kind of a no-brainer.”

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