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Kickstart Scheme: Business Participation

Volume 685: debated on Monday 30 November 2020

What steps her Department is taking to encourage businesses to participate in the kickstart scheme. (909446)

What steps her Department is taking to encourage businesses to participate in the kickstart scheme. (909453)

What steps her Department is taking to encourage businesses to participate in the kickstart scheme. (909456)

We are working with employers at a local, national and regional level, and we continue to have wide-ranging engagement to promote the scheme. Department for Work and Pensions officials are supporting applications through existing and growing partnerships. From day one, we have engaged with more than 300 stakeholders to ensure that the design of the kickstart scheme delivers for our young people and employers alike. We continue to work with those in growing sectors to boost further opportunities, so far creating more than 4,000 applications and more than 20,000 approved kickstart roles—these numbers are growing daily.

Last week, I met with Ameon, a building services company based in Fylde that is looking to grow its team due to the recent construction boom in the north-west. In construction, qualifications are vital to building a career. Will my hon. Friend outline how the kickstart scheme interacts with sixth-form and further education colleges to help enrolees to get valuable experience of work and certified lifetime skills?

Businesses in my hon. Friend’s constituency are coming forward daily, and DWP employer advisers are running daily sessions to get young people ready to be matched with placements. In addition, we have created new youth hubs and are working with local partners to assist young people in removing any barriers. Alongside that, we have allocated every kickstarter an additional £1,500 of employability support to ensure that they are ready to take up future work opportunities.

Small and medium-sized enterprises in my Havant constituency are major local employers and already support apprenticeships in large numbers. What steps is my hon. Friend’s Department taking to help kickstart gateway providers, particularly local authorities, to help SMEs to benefit from the scheme?

We are determined that SMEs can take part in kickstart. We are actively working with a range of gateway organisations, including chambers of commerce, local authorities and charities, so that they can support smaller employers to offer kickstart roles. Guidance is regularly updated through the kickstart portal on to clarify the process and highlight changes, and SMEs can access local employer contracts through those pages.

More than a dozen local businesses and charities have put forward applications, working with myself and the South Cheshire chamber of commerce. They are keen to get going and want to give young people opportunities. When might they be able to start deploying the roles?

We are encouraging employers to create a range of opportunities through the kickstart scheme for all young people aged 16 to 24 who are at risk of long-term unemployment, including those who have disabilities. Our work coaches will help to identify those young people in need of any extra support available through the kickstart scheme and any other suitable provision to support them. Meanwhile, my hon. Friend will be interested to know that the wide-ranging opportunities in his constituency go to the approval board this week for consideration.

The kickstart scheme is proving to be a great success in my North Kensington jobcentre, with many placements already made and a number—for instance, in gyms—awaiting the end of lockdown. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is critical that we get young people into work, especially in London, where the cost of living is so high?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend: it is vital that we support young people into employment. As we know, they are often the most affected in these times of economic uncertainty. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that in addition to kickstart, the DWP Kensington youth team is actively working with local partners, such as the Rugby Portobello Trust, to help young people in her constituency back into work.

Young people are particularly at risk of being left behind as a result of this pandemic. Will my hon. Friend assure me that as we get our economy moving again, she will ensure that younger people have the chance to develop the skills that they need for future employment?

The Secretary of State and I are determined that the kickstart scheme will provide for young people a vital springboard to gain vital skills and experience in fully subsidised six-month roles, which will help to build their networks and their future opportunities before they move into long-term employment, apprenticeships, traineeships or further training. I was delighted to be in Derbyshire earlier this year to see exactly how the scheme will work on the ground.

In the previous Parliament, Members will recall that the apprenticeship levy scheme was a bit of a flop. It let down businesses, young people, local authorities and colleges. With my local area seeing a 182% increase in unemployment, youngsters are having their lives blighted by joblessness now. What urgent action is being taken to work with local authorities, with employers and, of course, with colleges to promote apprenticeships as a viable future option?

I thank the hon. Lady for that question. It is very important that kickstart works with all the opportunities that are available for young people, and my Department is working across Government to achieve that. The Haringey youth team is made up of 10 work coaches focused on 18 to 24-year-olds and, absolutely, they are already working directly on this in her Wood Green jobcentre, and I encourage her to go to see it if she has not already done so.

Partnership will be crucial to drive down youth unemployment. I know that areas such as Greater Manchester are keen to understand how kickstart performs locally to assist in making the initiative a success. Can the Minister give clarity as to whether all the information relating to kickstart participation, which now comes in terms of gateway organisations, number of job placements applied for, sector information and so on, will be shared with mayoral combined authorities such as the Greater Manchester Combined Authority so that they are able to identify gaps that may then require more local partnership intervention?

I am meeting with the M9 Group of Mayors once again and they have been absolutely crucial in terms of local design, local mayors, local enterprise partnerships, and our local chambers of commerce. The scheme has been designed with local authorities and local labour markets in mind. The hon. Member will be pleased to know that we are working closely with Stockport local authority, particularly with its job match service around kickstart.

I am sure that, like me, the Minister wants to ensure that kickstart works for disabled people. I would like to know whether the Government have carried out an equality impact assessment of this scheme, and whether they will publish it. Will they also commit to the following: support from Access to Work from day one of employment; access to kickstart for recipients of employment and support allowance; and disability awareness training for all employment advisers? These small changes could help to ensure that every young person is able to benefit from kickstart.

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I know that she is focused on young people, as am I. She may have heard from the Secretary of State that we are absolutely determined about this and that that work is already embedded; it is part of kickstart. This placement is treated like regular work, so all existing schemes such as Access to Work can be used, and our young people in jobcentres will be able to discuss all the options via the work coach.