It was announced yesterday that unemployment figures were at their highest since 1996 and that youth unemployment had reached the 1 million mark. In the early 1980s young people in Wester Hailes faced an uncertain future. It was estimated that as many as 70% were unemployed in 1981. Government employment schemes came and went during the 1970s and 1980s: Youth Opportunities Programme, Special Temporary Employment Programme, Community Enterprise Programme.
In 1981, young people from the area took part in the “Jobs For Youth” campaign that took them across the UK in a week of protests and marches. Buff Thomas wrote about her experience in the Sentinel and about her encounter with Mrs Thatcher. When Buff asked her why young people taking part in the Youth Opportunity Programme were not entitled to free prescriptions, Mrs Thatcher helpfully replied “at your age you shouldn’t be sick anyway”. You can read Buff’s report by clicking on Jobs Express.
The Wester Hailes community sought to make a difference, with local structures offering placements, training posts and employment. The report Wester Hailes: Ten Years On charts these developments noting that Wester Hailes utilised YOP schemes. Wester Hailes Community Enterprises Ltd became a major sponsor of the Community Enterprises Programme.
Wester Hailes developed its own Youth Opportunities Programme via a community service scheme. They could do little about the poor levels of allowance given to young people taking part but WHYOPS tried to give them additional support. It was one of the few programmes to have its own Welfare Officer and to take a broader approach, recognising that trainees needed to learn life skills as well as specific work experience. You can read a report on WHYOPS here at a Chance For Youth.
In 1992, the Wester Hailes Youth Training Scheme faced cuts to a level that meant it could no longer continue. Over the years it had provided training for hundreds of young people. Despite an appeal for new funding, the project closed its doors in June 1992.