Helping young people to gain the skills, experience and qualifications needed for employment has always been a priority for Barnardo's.
As a charity, we train and support more than 3,000 of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged young people every year. We have a track record of removing some of the entrenched barriers that get in the way of young people learning and earning.
I believe that the spirit behind the government's Voluntary Work Experience programme is good. Young people of between 16-24, who have been unemployed for more than three months but less than nine, can choose to do some work experience while continuing to get Jobseeker's Allowance throughout their placement. The opportunity for them to gain the experience, confidence and skills they need to enter the toughest labour market since the 1980's is invaluable.
My main cause of concern with this scheme has always been the sanctions that young people faced if they decided after a week that the placement wasn't for them. It is entirely reasonable that young people who are trying to find their way and get an understanding of where their skills lie may struggle and decide to leave after a couple of weeks. I believed it was punitive that at this stage they could lose their benefits for a scheme that they had entered into voluntarily.
In response to this concern some organisations have chosen to withdraw from the scheme and others have called for it to be scrapped. But be in no doubt that scrapping the scheme would have removed a valuable lifeline from thousands of young people, particularly the most disadvantaged.
I am pleased that the government has listened to our calls and decided to reform the scheme so that sanctions will not apply.