The Department for Work and Pensions has refused to clarify whether or not the Kickstart scheme will be extended beyond December.
The scheme, which allows employers to offer young people on universal credit state-subsidised work placements, is one of the government’s key initiatives in the Plan for Jobs.
Asked by the Learning and Work Institute’s chief executive, Stephen Evans, if the scheme would be extended into 2022 to tackle the rising tide of youth unemployment, Mims Davies, parliamentary under-secretary of state for employment, gave no reassurances.
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Speaking at the Learning and Work Institute's Employment and Skills Convention, she said: “I'm really proud of how agile we are at DWP about focusing on outcomes […] but policy is only as good as what lands.
Youth unemployment: Call for Kickstart to be extended
“So, for me, it's really important that we get those over 100,000 jobs that are being advertised across the DWP network filled. We are looking at other ways of making sure that those jobs do get filled in, with competing vacancies. As well we need to be balancing jobs that are out there versus Kickstart roles and what they could lead to. So there's a lot in this and we're looking at it non-stop.”
Statistics published by the House of Commons on youth unemployment earlier this month showed that unemployment for young people was continuing to rise.
The analysis compared the February to April 2021 period with January to March 2020, and found that the number of young people in employment had fallen by 8 per cent.
The statistics also showed that the unemployment rate for young people had increased from 12.1 per cent to 13.2 per cent, and 263,000 more young people had become economically inactive – an increase of 10 per cent.
Ms Davies urged any employers not to “hold back” on the Kickstart scheme. “We've been really agile in the way that we've run and supported Kickstart all the way through. And if we get the 250,000 starts by December, and don't forget people can be starting in December and not finishing until the next summer, and any employees you're holding back thinking there might be a longer runway on this, don’t – just in case," she said.
“But I do want there to be a clear route way into apprenticeships, traineeships and other jobs. So let's make sure that we look at this in the round, alongside the recovery and the wider plan for jobs. The secretary of state and I are looking at some particular small changes which may help. And we'll always do that because, above all, it's about the right young person and the right business with the right opportunity from those brilliant employers."
In March, president of business organisation CBI Lord Bilimoria called for the Kickstart deadline to be extended until June next year.
He said at the time: “With the scheme due to end in less than nine months, employers simply don’t have enough time to make the most of it. Extending the deadline by six months would account for any delays as our economy reopens, guarantee time to process the huge demand for placements, and ensure as many young people benefit from the scheme as possible.”