• Employment Figures, Support for Veterans and National Citizen Service

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    12 August 2019

    Recent employment figures have shown our economy continuing to confound expectations with unemployment falling by 116,000 in the past twelve months and our unemployment rate dropping from 4.2% to 3.8% over the same period (the lowest since 1974). Wages have risen faster than inflation for the 16th consecutive month and at the fastest pace for 11 years in cash terms. Positive employment figures rarely make the headlines but the progress that has been made since 2010 is hugely significant. When the Conservatives took office the unemployment rate stood at 8.0% with youth unemployment in particular a real concern. As our new Prime Minister settles into Downing Street both Theresa May and David Cameron deserve credit for the strong jobs market he has inherited, with overall unemployment, long-term unemployment and youth unemployment all down significantly under their premierships.

    One of the first acts of our new Prime Minister has been the creation of an Office for  Veterans’ Affairs to improve the care and support available to those who have served in our armed forces. Fellow Devon MP Johnny Mercer, a former army captain and veteran of three tours of Afghanistan, will help run the department – a worthy appointment that reflects not only his military service and knowledge but the campaigning he has since carried out on the issue. The office will improve co-ordination between local authorities, Whitehall departments and the charitable sector to address veterans’ needs and provide a specific voice for veterans within the cabinet. While there will rightly be a strong focus on mental and physical health, there are other important issues that need addressing. Debt represents the highest percentage of calls to the Veterans’ Gateway support service for example, and housing is another key issue.

    Last year one in six 16-year olds embarked on their National Citizen Service (NCS) including many in our Central Devon constituency. It is the fastest-growing youth movement in a century with programmes running in the school holidays, usually split between 1–2 weeks in spring and autumn and 3–4 weeks over the summer. NCS, which is open to teenagers aged 15-17, has various components including the planning and delivery of a local social action project. Half a million young people have taken part in NCS and the programme has seen more than 12 million hours given in social action. It is estimated that for every £1 invested by the Government in the scheme there is a benefit to society of £8.36 and more than 80% of participants say they felt more positive about people from different backgrounds after the programme (a key part of NCS is improving social mobility and improving community cohesion). The only cost is a £50 admin fee and there are bursaries available to cover this for families on lower incomes. I would encourage anyone who wants to know more to visit and consider signing up for the 2019-20 academic year.

    For more from Mel follow him on twitter @MelJStride or visit