AS the number of under-24s out of work in the region reaches a 17-year high, a scheme helping young people to become their own boss is needed now more than ever, charity bosses say.

The Prince’s Trust is marking the 30th anniversary of its Enterprise programme by urging more young jobless people to sign up for help.

New research shows the scheme helped more than 250 unemployed people start up in business or find work in 2010/11 and contributed £2.1m to the region by increasing skills and earnings.

The youth charity is now urging more of the North-East’s jobless young people to sign up to the scheme.

The call comes as new figures show the number of under-24s in the North-East claiming benefits for more than 12 months was 6,725 in March 2013, compared to just 350 in March 2008. The claimant count is now at highest since March 1996.

Jonathan Townsend, Prince’s Trust regional director for the north of England, said: “Long-term unemployment can be hugely damaging, leading to mental health issues and a loss of self-esteem.

“These figures are very worrying and show that Prince’s Trust schemes are needed now more than ever.

“Our Enterprise programme is proven to boost the economy despite the recession as well as transforming thousands of young lives.”

Mark Winters, regional managing director of business banking at NatWest, part of the RBS Group, said: “This report confirms, with facts and figures, why it is so important to invest in the next generation.”

For more information on signing-up to the Enterprise programme, go to or call 0800-842-842.