Our Chief Executive Richard Thornton has spoken out about Prime Minister David Cameron’s crackdown on welfare for school leavers.

The PM’s plans will mean that school leavers either have to take a job or an apprenticeship or remain in education or training, rather than claim dole.

Mr Cameron told the Conservative Party Conference that the move was necessary because one million young people were not in education, employment or training (known as NEET).

Richard knows all about the plight of NEETs. He has taken over at our youth charity, coming from The Prince’s Trust. He has pledged to hugely increase the provision of UKSA’s very successful Back to Work programmes over the next three years. The schemes have had huge success on the Isle of Wight where the charity is based, and are now starting to roll out nationally.

He said: “We welcome the idea that every young person will have access to education and training as well as employment and I would suggest that’s a fantastic move forward. What I would challenge the government on is that they will have to pay for it – it does not come for free. Over the years the resources have been taken from local authorities to provide this sort of provision, and it has all become quite fractured.

“One of the things UKSA would love to do more of is work with local authorities and other charities and organisations to provide that provision, and we are already starting to do that.

“Our courses have already run successfully on the Isle of Wight, where 7.1% of 18-24 year olds claimed JSA in August, which extraordinarily and very troubling is double what it is across the South East (3.7%).

“We know we have our work cut out on the Island alone, but our Back to Work programmes can be rolled out anywhere, and we have already experimented with this by expanding our services to Kent and Greater London.”

Our youth development programmes are unique. Through a range of water-based activities such as sailing and watersports, we inspire and engage young people to take on new challenges, build their confidence and self esteem, and enhance their social and physical skills.

We work with JobCentre Plus to provide the six-week Change Direction programme for young people aged 18 to 25 who are seeking to move off benefits and into employment. To date, 82% of participants have moved off benefits and into some form or work or training.

We also work with young offenders, providing the Unlocking Potential programme that enables them to experience the work of a maritime centre and to explore job opportunities in this industry. This programme saw a 91% success rate (those who have served their sentence and not reoffended). Half also found employment after release.

IN addition, we run Prince’s Trust programmes, which aim to get local young people involved in community projects, into maritime jobs and discovering new opportunities.