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Kickstart Scheme

Volume 708: debated on Tuesday 1 February 2022

We know that young people have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. I am delighted that, to date, more than 122,000 kickstart jobs have been started by young people across Great Britain, including in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Tom Randall). Youth unemployment fell by 11.1% in the three months to November 2021 and is lower than it was prior to the pandemic, and in December there were half a million more employees aged under 25 than in December 2020.[Official Report, 7 February 2022, Vol. 708, c. 7MC.]

I recently visited Severn Trent Water in Gedling, and staff told me how impressed they were with the kickstarters that the company had taken on. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that he is working hard to encourage more companies and organisations to get involved in the kickstart scheme, to get even more people back into work?

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. Kickstart is delivering valuable jobs and work experience to young jobseekers at risk of long-term unemployment. Although kickstart closed to new applications on 17 December, we are genuinely delighted at the response from employers. As I noted, more than 122,000 kickstart jobs have been started so far, and we expect more between now and the end of March. Employers should continue to engage with Department for Work and Pensions jobcentres and support the new way to work campaign to get more people into work.

In my constituency, 130 new jobs for young people have been created. A group of young people started this week at Ball Aerocan in my constituency. The company is very pleased with the scheme and the young people it found but said it took a little while to get through the system. What can the Government do to encourage businesses to make use of the scheme before it ends in March?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that we want to encourage maximum uptake. Kickstart is only one part of the comprehensive package of support available to young people and, following the closure of this scheme, young jobseekers will still be able to benefit from the DWP’s wider youth offer, while work coaches across the country are working to support young people into jobs.

Young people who lost jobs during the pandemic have returned to less secure jobs, typically gig economy roles. The Resolution Foundation report published yesterday showed that one third of 18 to 34-year-olds who have returned to work have returned to atypical, insecure jobs. Almost 18 months ago, the Chancellor launched his kickstart programme, setting a target of 250,000. The Minister has said how many have found jobs, but, on the evidence of the Resolution Foundation report, those jobs just are not there and they are typically insecure.

I am afraid the hon. Gentleman confuses what he is talking about. The fact that we have not hit the target is precisely a reflection of the fact that the wider economic recovery has been so strong. It is a measure of the success of the wider recovery that we simply do not need to offer those opportunities and that the regular economy is generating them.

I have heard from so many on the Government Benches how good the kickstart scheme is. It has huge potential, but I keep telling the Treasury Bench to get their finger out and get on with it. It needs to be bigger and better; it must be linked to green skills and real opportunities for getting young people to roll up their sleeves and work in the community. It could be backed by a windfall profit tax on supermarkets and others, or on the gambling industry. Get on with it!

We are getting on with it. I remind the hon. Gentleman that when we compare the scheme to the last Labour Government’s future jobs fund, we see that we have already comfortably exceeded the number of young people it supported into work. Those are good, well-paying jobs in sectors that, he rightly highlights, are some of those of the future.