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Kickstart: Youth Unemployment

Volume 695: debated on Monday 17 May 2021

What recent assessment she has made of the effect of the kickstart scheme on levels of employment among young people. (900020)

Youth unemployment is down compared with 2010, currently standing at 575,000 young people, and we have the second-highest youth employment rate in the G7, second only to Canada. We are conscious of the scarring effects of long-term unemployment, which is why we developed kickstart as the flagship of our plan for jobs. Since its launch in September, over 200,000 jobs have been approved and over 20,000 young people have started their jobs. As our recovery continues, we expect to see many more starts in the next few weeks and months ahead.

I am afraid it is more damp squib than kickstart. An IT support and services company in my constituency started the much vaunted kickstart process on 15 September last year, with the expectation that it could recruit after 30 days. Eight months on, it still does not have anyone. Its conclusion: the scheme is pretty much a waste of everyone’s time and resources. Put simply, does this explain the fact that for every 25 young people who have lost their jobs over the past 12 months, kickstart has helped just one back into work?

It is fair to say that 20,000 people now have a salary coming in every week that they did not have before. I am sure that the employment Minister—the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Mims Davies)—will be happy to look into the specific circumstances of the role to which the hon. Gentleman refers. Young people are not compelled to apply for kickstart if they are already applying for other jobs as well as part of their conditionality, but I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will look further into the matter if the hon. Gentleman provides the details.

Suffolk’s gateway partnership has been very successful in promoting and rolling out the kickstart scheme, but to ensure that this initiative realises its full potential in supporting young people into work, it needs to be extended well beyond the end of this year. I would be most grateful if my right hon. Friend and Suffolk colleague confirmed whether she agrees with that conclusion and whether she is making representations to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor for funding to be provided at the forthcoming comprehensive spending review.

I thank my hon. Friend and neighbour, and, indeed, I commend Suffolk’s gateway partnership and have seen its success in my role as MP for Suffolk Coastal. There are no current plans to extend the kickstart scheme. We want to focus on delivering jobs for young people as soon as we can, and eligible young people will be able to start new kickstart jobs until the end of this year—December 2021. Like him, I am very keen to make sure that we fill the vacancies we have. We are starting to see our first graduates who are getting permanent roles and we need to evaluate what the best route is for beyond, in 2022.

May I say that this is going to be my last DWP questions in this role and thank the Minister for the constructive way that she has developed the relationship? I will be handing—

I am sorry, Mr Speaker, but I will be handing over to my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Andy McDonald), on whose behalf I ask this question.

Last month’s data shows kickstart helping less than 4% of 16 to 24-year- olds who have lost their jobs over the last year. The scheme is nowhere near matching the scale of the challenge and, even worse, the Department, as has just been confirmed, still plans to end the scheme just as unemployment is set to peak. Employers speak of delays of weeks for vacancies to be approved and then advertised. It is almost a year since the Chancellor announced kickstart. There is no excuse for long-term unemployment becoming a legacy of the pandemic, so when are things going to change, and will the Secretary of State now urgently review the December kickstart end date in line with calls by Labour, the Confederation of British Industry and the Youth Employment Group, so that employers can also plan ahead?

First, I congratulate the hon. Lady on her new role; I understand that she is moving into the shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy team and I am sure that she will be a huge success there, too.

In terms of kickstart, in the last four weeks, we have achieved, on average, 400 starts a day. This is in line with what we are seeing with the opening up of the economy. Today, we are on the first element of step 3, and we expect the starts under kickstart to get going. On the plan for jobs, we want to make sure that we properly evaluate all the measures to make sure that they achieve the ultimate goal of ensuring that as many people as possible are in work by the end of this year.