It was great recently to visit the Broken Spoke Bike Co-op which is a DIY bicycle workshop which teaches people of all ages and backgrounds how to ride and repair bicycles.
The Co-op’s cycling training, supported by Oxford City Council, is invaluable in helping build up the confidence and skills of people who might be cycling on our busy streets for the first time. A lot of people who would like to cycle, or get back to cycling, are deterred by the prospect of negotiating traffic on some of our busier roads. The training offers them a way to build their confidence which is good for their health, helps to tackle congestion and pollution in the city, as well as benefitting the environment by putting abandoned bikes to good use and promoting cycling.
The Co-op particularly works with people who are out of work, homeless or vulnerably housed to help them learn new skills and improve their chances in life. It was particularly good to see action for safe cycling linked with giving skills, training and work experience to people whose lives have been blighted by homelessness, since these are often the people who feel their skills aren’t up to scratch and lose their confidence, and who too frequently fall through the state safety net.
We need more initiatives like this on a wider scale to help the young and long term unemployed onto the employment ladder. It is a travesty that young people have been made to bear the brunt of the recession, and that even as there are signs of an economic recovery, there are over 900,000 young people still out of work.
We simply cannot afford to be wasting the talents of thousands of young people and leaving them stuck in the dole queue for years on end. The Labour Party is proposing a compulsory jobs guarantee scheme which will guarantee a real, paid job to every 18 to 24 year old who has been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for more than a year and for every adult aged 25 and over who has been claiming for more than 2 years.
The government would pay full wages and national insurance costs directly to businesses across a range of industries to cover 25 hours of work per week at the minimum wage, and in return, employers will be expected to provide training and development for participants.
By bringing together government, employers and workers to tackle the issue of long-term unemployment, we can ensure that those who have been hit hardest by the recession can benefit from the recovery, by getting them into real jobs.