The secretary of state for work and pensions has called on Croydon businesses to get behind the government’s youth contract scheme.

Iain Duncan Smith, former leader of the Conservative party, visited the borough last week to talk about youth unemployment and opportunities for young people.

He visited the Lifeline Centre in Dingwall Road, before heading to a Croydon Congress event where he spoke to some of the borough’s business representatives about getting involved in the with the Youth Contract Scheme.

Croydon has more than 2,500 young people aged 18 to 24 out of work, although the figure has dropped since the beginning of 2012.

The scheme looks to pay businesses to take on young people on a work experience basis for a couple of months.

The worker will get paid via their job seekers allowance and the business will receive a grant from the government.

Incentives worth up to £2,275 have been made available to businesses if they take on unemployed young workers.

Iain Duncan Smith, speaking at the Lifeline Centre, which was also attended by MP for Croydon Central Gavin Barwell and Conservative candidate for the empty Croydon North seat Andy Stranack, said he hoped Croydon businesses would take up the opportunity to help get young people into work.

He said: "It is a good scheme. Businesses can get £1,500 if they want to give them an apprenticeship as an alternative.

"It gives a chance to companies to see young people in the work place. Just over 50 per cent of those who go on the work experience programme actually come off benefits.

"It has been a good success so far.

He added: "The idea of the youth contract is to tie everything up. You can do work experience, then if they offer you a job they get the subsidy, and if they offer you an apprenticeship you get the subsidy.

"Meeting the young people today, it was great to talk to them as it tells you different things about the system and where it fails. I was quite taken by the kids who actually get it and know that sometimes they will have to get a survival job first."