03 September 2020 00:30
The government is launching a £2bn employment scheme today to get young people back into work after publishing data showing that a record number are claiming Universal Credit. The number of under-25s on benefits increased by 250,000 to 538,000 during the coronavirus lockdown. The surge, "which took place between March and July, means one in 13 of seven million Britons in the 16 to 24 demographic now claim the benefit", the Daily Mail reports. The new "Kickstart Scheme" is intended to help reverse the worrying hike by creating hundreds of thousands of new, fully subsidised placements for young people across the country. Unveiling the plan, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: "This isn't just about kickstarting our country's economy - it is an opportunity to kickstart the careers of thousands of young people who could otherwise be left behind as a result of the pandemic.
"The scheme will open the door to a brighter future for a new generation and ensure the UK bounces back stronger as a country." What is the Kickstart Scheme and how does it work? Part of the government's Plan for Jobs, the Kickstart Scheme is open to young people aged 16 to 24 who are claiming Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment. From November, six-month placements will be available across a range of different sectors in England, Scotland and Wales. Employers will receive funding to pay the national minimum wage for 25 hours a week, plus associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum auto-enrolment pension contributions. Businesses can join the scheme from today, with the state to provide £1,500 to help set up support and training. Employers can also "top up pay out of their own pockets, or extend the hours if they wish", reports the BBC. And "employers offering fewer than 30 placements will be asked to make a bid through a council or business group to save time and money", adds The Telegraph. The scheme will be overseen by the Department for Work and Pensions and is scheduled to run until December 2021. Video of The Kickstart Scheme Who is backing the scheme? Tesco, the UK's largest retailer, and Network Rail are among the firms backing the new Kickstart scheme, Sky News reports. The supermarket chain's UK boss Jason Tarry said: "We plan to welcome around 1,000 Kickstarters to Tesco, supporting more young people to start their careers and build skills for the future." FSB warns of 'lost generation' The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has welcomed the new scheme but says more action is needed to help prevent a "lost generation of young people", The Guardian reports. "More must be done to ensure small firms have all the support they need to survive and then thrive after this pandemic," said FSB chair Mike Cherry. "If more small businesses are unable to afford an apprentice, without the means to offer an industry placement for T-level pupils or provide a traineeship or Kickstart role, we will be letting down the next generation."