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Kickstart Scheme

Volume 805: debated on Monday 7 September 2020

Commons Urgent Question

The following Answer to an Urgent Question was given on Thursday 3 September in the House of Commons.

“Yesterday, the Government launched our new Kickstart Scheme, as set out in the Written Ministerial Statement and the letter sent to all Members of both Houses. This £2 billion programme will fund the direct creation of thousands of additional jobs for young people at risk of long-term unemployment, to improve their chances of progressing to find long-term, rewarding and sustainable work.

As we build back our economy and return fully to work, a lack of work experience can be a barrier to stepping on to the jobs ladder, which is why, through Kickstart, employers will be supported to access a massive recruitment pool of young people who want to work and are bursting with potential. Employers from all industries and across the private, public and voluntary sectors are eligible if they can meet our simple criteria on the provision of roles. Employers will need to show that these are additional jobs which provide the experience and support a young person needs to improve their chances of permanent employment. These need to be new roles that do not simply replace staff recently made redundant.

Funding available for each job covers the relevant national minimum wage rate for 25 hours a week, the associated employer national insurance contributions, and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions, as well as £1,500 for wraparound support. There is no limit to the number of jobs that can be created, and organisations of all sizes are encouraged to participate.

If a business wants to offer only one or two Kickstart jobs, as set out in the online guidance, employers can contact their local employer support managers with an expression of interest, and we will work to link them to an appropriate intermediary. These intermediaries could include local enterprise partnerships, local authorities or business groups, ensuring the necessary support is in place to deliver placements effectively. We will continue to be proactive on involving employers and intermediaries following the scheme’s launch yesterday.

We have already undertaken substantial engagement on our labour market strategy. I want to pay tribute to our civil servants in DWP and the Treasury who have brought this scheme to fruition, and I particularly want to thank and recognise my honourable friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Mims Davies), the Minister for Employment, who has worked tirelessly with her usual passion for helping young people get on in life and who I know will continue to do so.

Kickstart is a key strand of our plan for jobs focused on young people and will be a boost for the British economy. I want to encourage businesses and organisations all to take advantage of the most ambitious youth employment programme in our history and help Kickstart to become a flying start for our young people.”

[Inaudible.]—young people not in full-time education or employment. We have been urging government to introduce an equivalent to the last Labour Government’s Future Jobs Fund, which was shown to be so effective in getting young people into jobs, so we welcome the Kickstart Scheme, but it must offer a route to real jobs for those most in need. How will the Minister ensure that these are genuinely new, additional jobs? How will she ensure the scheme is taken up by employers of all sizes in all regions of the UK?

I thank the noble Baroness for her question. She has started us on a very important issue to do with the Kickstart Scheme. The jobs secured through the Kickstart Scheme will go through a very rigorous process. One of the major benefits of the new Kickstart Scheme is the involvement of the private sector. We will ensure that the jobs provided under Kickstart will be good quality. We believe the best chance for a sustained job will come from taking part in the scheme. The employers will have a chance to see if they can place participants permanently in their establishments.

While it is incredibly important to get young people into work, small businesses are struggling to make sense of how they can access this scheme—yet the poster child is Tesco, which is taking on people, growing and benefiting from coronavirus and will now get free members of staff. How can the Minister ensure that those people taken on at government cost would not have been taken on in any case by Tesco and that they will get some kind of qualification or hope of a job at the end of this?

I am pleased to say that the latest briefing I have had today is that a range of companies wish to take part in Kickstart—large companies, as the noble Lord suggested, and small companies, as well as charities. There will be a rigorous process to follow to ensure that those jobs are additional and not previously advertised. I am sure the process we go through will result in good-quality opportunities for our young people.

Prior to my noble friend becoming a Minister, she had devoted much of her life to helping some of the hardest-to-reach and troubled young people in the country find their way into the dignity of work. How will she ensure that the Kickstart programme supports our most vulnerable young people, who already face the greatest barriers to employment, and does not leave them to fall further behind?

The Kickstart Scheme really is very exciting for young people. First, they will have a work coach who will be with them throughout their journey. They will have full support from Jobcentre Plus and employer support; the HR teams will hopefully work with them. They will be able to put together a CV, understand the world of work and undertake training opportunities that enhance their employment prospects. The flexible support fund of £150 million will be deployed and, most importantly, when somebody is in a Kickstart placement, there will be regular reviews of their progress to ensure that we do not miss any opportunity to keep them in that placement, rather than them falling out. Without blowing my own trumpet, there are all the key components we deployed at Tomorrow’s People that made the outcomes so successful.

My Lords, I congratulate the Government on this initiative, but I would like to ask the Minister what plans they have for when it ends. The danger, of course, is that too many people will simply drop back into unemployment, as happens too often in France. I wonder whether it is possible to have continuing support at a lower level, so that there is a tapering off, as with the present furlough system? Would the Government give further thought to this?

My Lords, I am pleased to say—and I reiterate the points I made before—that all through the Kickstart Scheme journey, young people will have the support services of their work coach and the full support of the Jobcentre Plus system, along with their intermediaries and employers. Work coaches will continue to support claimants into work after their placements have been completed. They will not be left to drift. We want as many young people as possible to gain support from this service. On the noble Lord’s point about changing the mechanism of the programme, I am not aware of any plans to do that at present.

My Lords, for those employers whose individual job needs do not amount to 30, arrangements can be put in place, as we have heard, by intermediaries. What is the process for this? Is it just a DWP recommendation? Is there a quality assurance process for recognition of intermediaries? Who has responsibility for delivering the various programmes—individual employers or the intermediary entity?

My Lords, I must apologise to the noble Lord, as the sound was not great, but I think I got the gist of his question. Where employers have robust HR teams and can manage the process, they will obviously be able to bid. Where employers have only one or two opportunities, the role of the intermediary steps in. There will be a quality assurance process for their procurement. I understand that yesterday Movement to Work and the Prince’s Trust were gearing up to fulfil this role. We will make sure that the best possible people are taking part as intermediaries.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on this excellent scheme and the speed with which she has put it in place. I understand why it has been necessary to focus on people who will give an opportunity to a batch of youngsters, but the real hope will be small businesses that can help one or two. Once the scheme is up and running, will she consider the ways in which small employers can engage directly? Will she also recognise that the sooner Britain gets back to work the better, because many of these young people will need support and guidance in the workplace. Does she think there are enough work coaches in place to maintain the scheme?

I can assure all noble Lords that as the Kickstart Scheme is implemented and progresses, it will be kept under constant review. If the noble Lord, or any Member of your Lordships’ House, has some idea about how it could be amended for the better, my door is always open to receive those. We are doubling the number of our work coaches. We will make sure that there are ample people to offer support on the journey. I could not agree more: the sooner we are back to work the better. Young people will receive the support they need to ensure that they make a good transition from Kickstart to work.

My Lords, I welcome the proposed Kickstart programme, although I would have liked to see apprenticeships and some graduate programmes extended; this remains a glaring gap. I steered the Labour Government’s first mentoring project, the People into Management Network, for three years. It primarily targeted young Asian women, undergraduates and graduates, supporting over 500 young people with 100 leading organisations, including Microsoft, the Foreign Office, the police and others. 10 Downing Street itself provided placements, mentoring and ongoing support for three months, for a comprehensive and impactful placement experience. I am glad to hear that prolonged coaching and support will be available. Will the Minister take the opportunity to meet me and other noble Lords interested in discussing how to improve the programme?

My Lords, my door is open and I would be very happy to meet noble Lords to discuss this if it helps them. If I may, I will build on a point that the noble Baroness made. With our plans for jobs, we are doubling the work coaches and putting £2 billion into Kickstart, and there will be no cap on places. We have expanded the youth offer, we are expanding the work and health programme, we are expanding the sector-based academies, and we have put an extra £40 million in for additional capacity for an online job-finding support scheme. I am very proud of what my Government are doing to make sure we help as many people as possible.

Sitting suspended.