Concerns raised over government's £2bn 'Kickstart' employment programme

Concerns have been raised about the government's Kickstart scheme, designed to deliver work places and job opportunities for young people in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. £2 billion of public spending was announced on the scheme today, but there are still clear unanswered questions on the type and quality of placements that will be available, the type of companies that will be part of the scheme, and the opportunities offered by companies at the end of the scheme.

Before COVID-19, the lack of opportunities for many young people was causing serious concern. This has been accelerated by the pandemic and associated economic downturn and lockdown restrictions. In July, there were over a million young people not in full-time education or employment, accounting for one in six young people.

The Kickstart scheme was launched to provide these young people with opportunities to gain work experience and start careers, addressing this crisis. As many companies across industry reduce hiring for entry level positions and the recent spike in unemployment mean that job applications are over-subscribed, these opportunities are sorely needed for many. 

The 6 month placements will be open to those aged 16-24 who are claiming Universal Credit and at risk of long term unemployment, although it is yet to be seen how the scheme will be promoted to eligible young people. Employers will receive funding for 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum auto-enrolment pension contributions. 

Yet the government has not yet provided significant detail on safeguards to ensure that jobs included in the scheme are genuinely new roles. Without robust safeguards, it may be possible for companies to take advantage of government funding to replace current roles with these placements. 

There are also concerns about how the government will promote the scheme to small business, especially those operating outside of London, and what quality benchmark will be applied to Kickstart vacancies.

“Billions of pounds of public money are being poured into Kickstart so we must ensure it creates meaningful job opportunities for young people across the country", said Jonathan Reynolds MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. "Once again, this Government has been forthcoming with announcements but sparse on details. Ministers must come to the House and confirm crucial details about how this scheme will actually work".

He continued, “the government has had two months to get this scheme up and running but it is clear they have made little progress. Young people and businesses can’t afford any more delay and incompetence from this Government”.