The Government’s plan for jobs is already supporting people back into employment. Jobcentres are open across the country, including 262 Jobcentres that recently started opening on Saturdays, and we are now making over 750,000 contacts a week. With an extra 7,000 work coaches already in place, we are on track to meet our commitment to double the number of work coaches by the end of this financial year. While many claimants are ready to move back into work, others may need additional support including acquiring work experience, training or new skills.
For young people especially, a lack of work experience can be a barrier to stepping on to the jobs ladder. That is why, through our kickstart scheme, we are funding the creation of new job placements for 16 to 24-year-olds, with work coaches referring young people to prospective employers who are able to spread the start date of job placements over the next year.
After inviting expressions of interest from employers in September, young people started benefiting from the first placements in November. We have seen a brilliant response from employers with over 32,000 roles already approved. Vacancies have been created with employers large and small and across a range of sectors, including construction, digital and technology, logistics and manufacturing. Processing of applications is now proceeding at pace and we hope to see many more of our young claimants starting placements early in the new year.
In delivering kickstart, it is important that we use taxpayers’ money carefully to ensure the quality of the wraparound support to young people and avoid fraud. Therefore our processes have rightly been rigorous in assessing applications made directly from employers and those made through a kickstart “gateway” where employers, particularly smaller ones, can receive help such as from a local authority or charity. We have over 200 “gateway” organisations now approved with a significant number of roles. However, we know our processes have led to a number of employers and organisations not being approved, particularly applications by sole traders, whether directly or through gateways.
We are continuing to review and improve our assessment and control processes, including those on financial due diligence. For example, currently there is only one route for sole traders to be involved in kickstart and that is through a gateway that provides a PAYE service as part of their support. We have now approved a new gateway, operated by the Federation of Small Businesses and in partnership with Adecco Working Ventures, to provide such a route. Other organisations are considering creating similar models.
Disabled people receiving support through Access to Work are eligible for kickstart placements and these will be actively promoted by our work coaches and national employment programme teams. I am pleased that a number of people on kickstart have come from particularly disadvantaged groups and we will continue to make our work programmes appropriately inclusive.
Other parts of our plan for jobs agenda being delivered by DWP include SWAPs, JETS and JFS: sector work-based academy programmes, job entry targeted scheme and job finding support. The number of referrals and starts made to SWAPs has exceeded our initial estimates and we are seeing thousands of people being supported through our other schemes. In light of this uptake and to ensure that we can continue to support claimants we are taking steps to increase the number of placements available on the SWAPs scheme.
Work is also under way on Restart, our long-term unemployment programme, that will support over one million individuals. We have issued our invitation to tender for the programme to start in summer 2021.
Our plan for jobs is the most ambitious employment programme ever undertaken, particularly the scope and extent of kickstart. I encourage members of the House to work with local employers to ensure kickstart helps provide a flying start for our young people.