Labour has declared that the government still needs to answer “basic questions” about its newly launched £2bn ‘kickstart’ scheme for young people in an urgent parliamentary question on Thursday morning.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds said he “welcomed” the programme but said it was “disappointing” that its implementation, initially planned for August, had been delayed.
The scheme, launched as part of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s summer economic update in July, will see the government subsidise businesses to employ 16- to 24-year-olds made unemployed during Covid.
Under the programme, the young people taking part will be guaranteed 25 hours of work, with the government paying the wages and overhead costs for participating businesses.
Reynolds said: “It is disappointing that it has taken until September for the scheme to be launched, and it is also disappointing that we needed to summon government ministers using urgent questions to parliament just to ask basic questions about how the scheme will work.”
He asked the government to provide evidence as to how ministers will ensure that jobs under the scheme will be new positions and that the scheme targets the young people most in need of jobs.
Labour’s work and pensions spokesperson also criticised the idea that the scheme could work as a replacement for the furlough scheme ending in October.
Reynolds added: “I was alarmed by the Prime Minister’s presentation of the scheme yesterday as an alternative to targeted furlough support.”
“The furlough scheme was there to make sure people had a job to return to – the alternative for many would have been redundancy as businesses didn’t have the revenue to meet their payroll.
“Needed as this scheme is it cannot be a replacement for furlough in the sectors that do not have the capacity to train and recruit new staff yet.”
The latest unemployment figures from July have shown that there are already over one million young people not in full-time education or employment, compared to just over 400,000 in January.
The Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary put forward three key tests to make sure the Kickstart scheme can function properly:
- First, to deliver high-quality placements that provide training opportunities for young people.
- Second, to make sure it will transition participants into longer lasting jobs beyond the initial placement.
- Finally, to make sure small businesses, not just bigger employers, can benefit from the scheme.
In its current form, participating businesses will need to create at least 30 jobs to receive government support, which is unattainable for many smaller enterprises.
In an earlier statement, Reynolds said: “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.
“Once again, this government has been forthcoming with announcements but sparse on details. The government has had two months to get this scheme up and running but it is clear they have made little progress.”
The Resolution Foundation think tank has forecast that the programme, if successful, could help find jobs for as many as 350,000 unemployed 18- to 24-year-olds.