21/01/2015 12:47 GMT | Updated 23/03/2015 05:59 GMT

Short-Term Scramble for Young People's Votes Risks Taking the Eye Off the Job - Youth Unemployment

Young people have been worst hit by the financial crisis and ensuing economic downturn but with the tightest election for decades in prospect, and the votes of both young people and their families are on the line, it will be vital for all political parties to strike the right note when it comes to unemployment. But what is the right note?

Over the past 18 months all the main parties have made promises: youth guarantees, creating more apprenticeships, increasing loans to small business and reducing employer's national insurance contributions.

Often debated in Westminster is the, of course welcome, fall in those young people claiming Jobseekers Allowance for up to six months. What should be the greater focus of debate - and political campaigning - is the huge number of young people claiming benefits for longer than six months, particularly those doing so for more than an entire year.

In November 2007, just as the first waves of the global financial crisis were washing the UK's shores, 32,000 young people were recorded as claiming for a period of 6 to 12 months of unemployment. 7,000 had been claiming JSA for more than 12 months.

Today's latest statistics from the Office for National Statistics show a drop in the claimant count for young people, but a small one. 27,900 18-24s have been claiming JSA for up to six months and 29,300 for more than 12 months, down from 30,000 and 31,000 in November.

This week David Cameron set out his commitment to create three million new apprenticeships by 2020 as part of the Conservatives' commitment to full employment. The Prime Minister should be commended for his commitment to apprenticeships, but young people aren't benefiting.

The evidence of the past decade shows that places are more frequently taken up by over-25s. At the same time, even if young people do take manage to secure an apprenticeship they will often be those who have been claiming Jobseekers Allowance for the least time. For young people whose education has been disrupted, such as those at Centrepoint who have had to face homelessness this trend is a huge concern.

The danger at elections is that campaigning in poetry on the basis of headline-grabbing figures leads to a situation where those in most need of support are passed over.

Reductions in the claimant count will always be welcome, but what is needed from all parties between now and 7 May are policies which support all young people out of unemployment and into sustainable work.