Just 19% of young women who visited a job centre in the last year said it helped them find a job, six in ten said the experience was humiliating and one in five said staff didn't treat them with respect. While this lack of support was evident across the sexes, young women were less likely than young men to say Jobcentre Plus kept them motivated when searching for work or helped them find work.
Our findings resonate with last week's House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee report, which drawing on evidence we and others submitted, called for greater flexibility and innovation by Jobcentre Plus. The Committee also rightly expressed concern that job centre work coaches are often cast into the role of policeman rather than supporters or genuine coaches who will help people progress into work.
Concerns that employment support isn't working are especially worrying for young women, given what we know about their particular needs.
Contrary to how it is frequently portrayed, there are actually more young women than young men who aren't in education, employment or training - and young women who are in work are also more likely than young men to be on low pay or in insecure employment with few prospects.
As our recent No Country for Young Women report, which surveyed 4,000 people found, young women are more likely than young men to say they lack self-confidence. 62% of young women said they would be put off applying for a job if they did not meet all the criteria, compared to 54% of young men - while 85% said they had applied for jobs and not got any feedback.
That's why we believe that the sort of approach that the Young Women's Trust's Work It Out service provides for young women is so valuable.
By providing free, flexible coaching and personalised advice and feedback on CVs and job applications for young women aged 18-30 in a truly person-centred way, Work It Out aims to empower women and, crucially, fit around their lives.
Coaching sessions can be arranged by phone, text, WhatsApp or whatever works best for young women, and the emphasis is on a positive, empowering approach where young women are supported to feel more positive about themselves. Crucially, young women are not penalised if they miss a session - and under no pressure to have a set number of sessions. Advice on CVs and job applications can also be arranged in the same way, with personalised expert feedback provided by specialist HR volunteers. Feedback from young women has so far been really positive, with the majority of service users reporting increased confidence, including when applying for jobs.
We know there is a need for flexible and holistic services such as Work It Out, and considerable benefits for the people who use them. We also know there is demand - especially amongst young women. More than 2 in 3 young women in England and Wales say they would be interested in personalised feedback on their CV or job applications, and four in ten 18-24 year olds report that they would be interested in the sort of personalised and flexible telephone support that our coaching offers.
Youth employment levels have encouragingly fallen recently, and there are record levels of women in the workplace. However, there are still far too many young women who want to work but who can't find a job - including those who don't show up in unemployment statistics because they are unable to actively seek or imminently start work - or who are stuck in low paid, insecure work. As long as this remains the case there can be no room for complacency. We'd therefore like to see greater innovation and flexibility by job centres, a renewed focus on flexible support and far more emphasis on partnership work and signposting young women to the services that are right for them.