A year since the first placements began, almost 100,000 young people have started a kickstart role. I am delighted that kickstart will now continue through to March next year, offering exciting opportunities and crucial experience to even more young people through this extension. We are also extending our enhanced Department for Work and Pensions youth offer, expanding eligibility to 16 and 17-year-olds, so that all under-25s claiming universal credit or searching for work can benefit from more targeted support, through our youth hubs, mentoring circles and tailored support from youth employability work coaches.
I thank my hon. Friend for her answer. She will know, however, that we have a persistent problem with youth unemployment in Clacton, because I have raised this issue frequently. As we level up and build back better, can she assure me that we will not overlook areas of deprivation in the coastal regions of the south, so that we level up not only up and down, but sideways?
We are absolutely determined that no region is left behind, and we have invested in and strengthened our support offer, as I have outlined. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that on 18 November we are hosting a kickstart employer day at Clacton Jobcentre Plus, matching employers directly with those young people in need to find them suitable roles.
I thank my hon. Friend for coming along to the DWP centre in Worthing and meeting a kickstarter working for the youth hub there, and for joining me in doing a shift working tables at the Fat Greek Taverna afterwards, as a result of which we were both offered jobs—the way things are going, that might come in quite handy. What more can we do to have outreach services, to make sure that young people get into those youth hubs in the first place, where they are given all the support they need on interviews and writing CVs, and that they turn up at interviews when they are given a job prospect?
I like to think it was tenacious Tim and me together working on the hospitality shift. I know my hon. Friend is passionate about youth employment, and we did enjoy that visit. He saw that youth hub just last week, which shows that vital new link in the community, bringing together local partners. That wraparound support is key for the under-25s, particularly those who are not engaged with the Government at any other level; that is where our youth employment coaches come into their own. We have to remove those barriers to work for all.
I am delighted to see a new DWP youth hub open in Eastleigh today. It will make a huge difference to my constituents. Will the Minister set out how youth hubs will help our young people boost their skills and find new opportunities as we recover from the pandemic?
My hon. Friend is right on this. We have one youth hub opening today in Eastleigh and another in nearby Romsey; crucially, they are working in partnership with councils. Along with training, skills and employment opportunities—the DWP train and progress scheme, the sector-based work academy programme and the kickstart scheme—this means that everyone in this Chamber should know that the answer and the way to progress is through work.
What message does the Minister think the UK Government send to young people with wage rates that discriminate based on their age, with a £5,000 gap between the one for an 18-year-old and the one for a 25-year-old?
My daughter started her first job today, on £9.50 an hour. She is delighted and she is doing that alongside her studies. I understand the challenge on different wage rates, but the national minimum wage rise really helps people, alongside the taper rate and the skills and opportunities provided through youth hubs and more widely. So I do not think that young people should feel anything other than that there are great opportunities out there, with more than 1 million vacancies and seasonal work, which can be the first step on to the employment ladder and the next stage in their career.
I recently visited Selly Oak jobcentre and have to say that I was quite impressed by what I saw and what I heard about the kickstart scheme, but one thing that surprised me was the number of students who are taking places on the scheme. Does the Minister share my concern that there might be a slight displacement effect, with the students understandably seeking work experience but thereby taking places on a programme that was conceived for young people with fewer qualifications and less access to the job market? If that is the case, what might she do about it?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for visiting that fantastic jobcentre. We have jobcentres doing that work up and down the country, and it is crucial that 100,000 young people are getting that first step on the employment ladder. He is right to point out that there should be no cherry-picking of the easiest people to move into employment. Kickstart is about getting young people on to the first rung on the employment ladder, which is why we have kickstart quick start and direct meetings with employers, so that nobody is left behind. The flexible support fund will address any barriers and we will make sure that everybody is job ready and nobody is left behind.
In May this year, the then Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health, the hon. Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson), told the Work and Pensions Committee that the Department did not routinely collect information on disabilities from young people who enter the kickstart scheme and that it had no immediate plans to do so. That means it is impossible to monitor how accessible or inaccessible the kickstart scheme is for young people who have disabilities. Will the Minister confirm whether that is still the case? If it is, when is she going to sort it?
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point that will be picked up in the evaluation. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) mentioned the fact that we should not be cherry-picking; the kickstart scheme is about people with the biggest barriers and the highest likelihood of long-term unemployment, and nearly 100,000 young people have got on to the employment ladder because of it. We will look at the issue the hon. Gentleman raised, but the reality is that with the Access to Work programme and all the other interventions that come alongside a kickstart role, if someone has disabilities, that should not prevent them from being on the programme.