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Tailored and targeted measures to help young Danes
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Tailored and targeted measures to help young Danes

| Text: Dorte Skovgaard Wihre Photo: Cata Portin

Denmark is launching a tailored and targeted drive for 15 to 17 year-olds to get them into education or work. The Danish government plans to spend 1.25 billion Kroner (€170 million) over three years to see the plan through. But the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions says a threat to cut youth benefits is a slap in the face of the weakest families.

A majority of young Danes leaving compulsory education plan to enter higher education. Yet each year some 10,000 never get started or leave before they graduate. That’s why the government has presented 25 initiatives targeting young people, to boost their employment and education levels.

In his presentation of the youth plan, the Minister for Education, Bertel Haarder, said: “If we don’t target the passive young, we nurture future benefit dependency and future criminals, including gang members. Work, travel, apprenticeships or higher education can all help people mature, helping especially those who are fed up with school to return to education”.

The plan will strengthen youth education information offices, found in each of Denmark’s municipalities. These offices start targeting youth in their final years of secondary school. Aside from high school education, other areas to be looked at include employment, apprenticeships, folk high schools (adult education which does not grand academic degrees) or voluntary work. Municipal job centres will play a more active role in reaching young people tired with school. They might offer mentors, and there will be coaches watching out for them and intervening if they start loosing interest in their education or work.

Local Government Denmark (LGD), the municipalities’ main interest organisation, agrees there is a need to create a more permanent and targeted approach to reach some young people.

“But the solution doesn’t only rest with municipalities. Because one of the main problems with youth and education is the lack of apprenticeships. That’s why we also need to see the private sector living up to their responsibilities,” says Erik Nielsen, head of LGD’s labour market and business group.

Youth benefit could go

All young people agree on a curriculum in cooperation with coaches, the young person themselves and parents. If they don’t stick to it, it could cost the family dearly. Parents risk loosing child support, which is being renamed youth benefit. Today the tax free benefit stands at 2.558 kroner (€340) every quarter.

The threat of removing the youth benefit has angered the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions and the Danish Association of Social Workers. They fear there is a great risk this will hit families with weak economies and low education levels the hardest.

“The proposal is a slap in the face for many poor families. It is amazingly naïve to believe that by threatening to take people’s benefits away they will somehow find the resources to motivate their children to get an education or a job,” says Ejner Holst, Secretary for the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions.

The youth plan comes in the wake of a range of government initiatives published in September. It then allocated 1 billion Kroner (€1.3 million) to create 5,000 new apprenticeships within vocational training as one of several measures aimed at fighting unemployment and helping 18 to 30 year-olds into education or work.

 

Youth Plan 1 and 2

Denmark’s government wants to increase its effort to get all young people into education and work, and to prevent a further increase in youth unemployment. As a result it has presented two so-called youth plans within one month.

Plan 1

  • 18 to 19 year-olds receiving social benefits will be targeted with offers of help as soon as they become unemployed.
  • 1 billion Kroner (€130 million) to the new initiative “A new deal for the young”, with job centres targeting young people without work and education.
  • 1 billion Kroner (€130 million) to be made available in 2010 to create 5,000 new apprenticeships, to help more finish their vocational training.

Plan 2

  • 15 to 17 year-olds shall follow their curriculum, with help from municipalities.
  • Municipalities to offer mentor support to young people at risk of dropping out of school.
  • All young people must assess their readiness to enter education before they do so. 
  • Job centres should offer employment or apprenticeships to young people who are not quite ready to continue their education.
  • Child support for 15 to 17 year-olds to be renamed youth support. Municipalities can stop the support when the young person fails to follow the curriculum or when parents and the young person fail to cooperate with the municipality.
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