Geraldine Gammell: We must invest in our young people

Our young people, no matter their background, now face the toughest barriers to success for generations. Even those from relatively affluent backgrounds are finding it is harder to get into university, the competition for top jobs seems insurmountable and getting on the property ladder a distant dream.

So what about those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and have had difficult starts to their lives?

The Prince's Trust and the Royal Bank of Scotland recently published a report examining the "cost of exclusion". A conservative estimate for Scotland's benefits bill alone for this group is 3.8m a week.

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But what can we do to ensure the cost to society, and for our young as individuals, doesn't spiral out of control? In a time of drastic budget cuts, we must not lose sight that an investment in the young is one which will be of benefit now and in the future. The annual cost for an individual jobseeker in Scotland can be as much as 16,000. It costs around 1,000 to put a young person on a Prince's Trust personal development programme.

In Scotland, the number of 16-24-year-olds claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) for 12 months or longer has recently hit a 12-year high.

For the young who are jobless, have no qualifications, have been in care or spent time in prison, there may seem like there is no hope for the future, but the fact of the matter is they still have very long lives to live – lives that deserve to be happy.

We must invest in these lives, equipping the young with the skills, qualifications and, ultimately, confidence to succeed and become employable. It is imperative that the public, private and voluntary sector work together to create innovative solutions in tackling youth unemployment.

Without the opportunities for employment, education or training, we run the risk of creating a "lost generation". By placing our faith and investment in the young, we make both savings and a contribution to society now and into the future.

• Geraldine Gammell is director of The Prince's Trust Scotland.