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Promising Kickstart youth job scheme ends in disappointment

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

The government’s £2bn Kickstart scheme to get young people off benefits and into work has failed to live up to expectations.

As of 31 March 2022, a total of 235,000 jobs were made available as part of the government’s flagship Kickstart scheme, but just 159,800 of these were taken up.

The Kickstart scheme was an emergency policy launched in September 2020 to address a forecast rise in youth unemployment as a result of the pandemic.

It was aimed at young people aged 16-24 who were on Universal Credit or identified at risk of long-term unemployment. Jobs would last six months, pay at least the minimum wage and provide a minimum 25 hours work a week. Employers received £1,500 for each Kickstart participant.

As part of the £1.9bn scheme, it was expected to create jobs for up to 250,000 young people by December 2021.

But in February this year, analysis of the Kickstart scheme by the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) revealed that by mid-December 2021 (the original application date deadline), just 110,000 starts were recorded.

And as such, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) revised estimates to 168,000 as the new deadline for job placements to begin was pushed back to 31 March 2022.

However, updated figures from the DWP reveal the actual number of jobs started under the scheme is actually a lower 159,800.

England recorded 137,600:

  • East Midlands: 10,200
  • East of England: 11,600
  • London: 32,100
  • North East: 7,900
  • North West: 20,300
  • South East: 17,100
  • South West: 9,700
  • West Midlands: 15,400
  • Yorkshire and The Humber: 13,400.

In Scotland, the figure stood at 14,000 while in Wales, 7,800 jobs were started.

By sector, the top five included: 39,370 jobs were started in administration, 26,060 in retail and sales, 16,480 in creative and media, 13,780 in hospitality and food and 12,210 in computing technology and digital.

‘Hasn’t gone to plan’

Myron Jobson, senior personal finance analyst at Interactive Investor, said: “It is clear that the Kickstart scheme, while well intentioned, hasn’t gone to plan. The initial goal was to get 250,000 people in jobs through the scheme by the end of December and despite being extended by three months to March 2022, the DWP has fallen well short of the target, with 159,800 job started.

“This is all the more disappointing when factoring in that the number of young unemployed people searching for work has been well over 200,000 in every month since April 2020 and employers have offered 235,000 potential Kickstart jobs.

“The scheme was also lambasted by House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts back in February, referring to the early delivery of the scheme as chaotic and failing to install a basic management information that would be expected for a multi-billion-pound grant programme.

“The scheme was clearly blighted by unprecedented pressures which impaired logistical and organisational capabilities, but the decision to launch the scheme without a more robust infrastructure and opting to take an ‘agile’ approach to building and refining its administrative systems ultimately backfired.”

‘Kickstart has allowed us to grow quickly’

Despite the disappointing numbers, an Aberdeen-based hand sanitiser business praised the scheme, taking on its 30th Kickstart employee since launch.

Marko Steiger, one of the founders of Palm Safe, said: “We were happy to get these talented young people on board and provide them with the opportunity to learn new skills and get the experience they need.

“As a business less than two years old, Kickstart has allowed us to grow quickly, which is exactly what the market for our products was demanding. Our financial resources were able to be focused elsewhere in the business, allowing us to open more locations and increase our stock. Kickstart has been a win-win for our business, with employees helped into work while our business has been supported in its rapid growth.”

He added that in the six months with the company, employees have worked across production and packaging, sales, marketing, and social media management departments.

“We provide them with onsite training as well as constant guidance throughout the whole scheme. We also help with writing CVs and seeking future job opportunities. Thanks to the experience they get and the skills they learn here, many of them are then able to find full-time jobs either with us or other companies”, Steiger said.