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Five things to look out for in the Kick Start youth jobs pledge

July 8th 2020

Ahead of the Chancellor’s widely-trailed announcement on provision for young people later today, Victoria Winckler, Director of the Bevan Foundation, highlights five things to look out for.

Woman with black thought cloud

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

All eyes are on the Chancellor’s statement later today and in particular the likelihood of a ‘Kick-start’ scheme to offer 6-month long work placements for young people receiving Universal Credit and who are at risk of long-term unemployment. Welcome though this is, there are some important points to look out for.

1.Who will run it?

It’s not clear whether this scheme will be delivered via the Department for Work and Pensions, given its link with Universal Credit, or whether it will be devolved to the Welsh Government as part of its post-16 learning and skills programme. In the current climate I anticipate the former, but let’s see.

2. Will it be enough?

The programme sounds big and ambitious, but the scale of the challenge is huge.  There are around 31,000 young people aged 16 completing their education this year, with around a quarter of them leaving full time education. Of the 10,000 18 year olds completing year 13 of their education, around half do not go on to higher education.  There are a further 61,000 16 – 24 year olds in some form of further education – many of whom will be finishing their courses this year or next. And there’s a further 25,000 16-24 year olds who are already unemployed.

So these are huge numbers of young people who are either already looking for work or soon will be, in Wales alone.  Will there be enough funding – and enough jobs – for all these young people?

3. What about 16 and 17-year olds?

While the programme is badged as being for 16-24 year olds who receive Universal Credit, only in exceptional circumstances can 16 and 17 year olds claim UC. Which presumably leaves large numbers of young people who don’t want to or don’t have the qualifications to carry on learning high and dry.  Yes, there are Welsh Government Traineeships but this scheme is far from perfect, and will potentially be completing for work placements with the UK Government scheme.

4.  What will participants get?

The weasel words ‘work placement’ have featured already in the stories about the new scheme. For too many previous schemes, this has meant participants doing proper jobs that benefit the employer in return for their benefits. That they do so alongside workers paid a proper wage is all the more worrying.

5. What about learning?

Many young people who are unemployed lack the qualifications they need to access further and higher education, or better paid job opportunities. Not getting 5 GCSEs at grades A-C determines their chances for the rest of their lives. This is all the more important as this year’s school leavers have received estimated grades not those based on examinations. The new Kick Start scheme must include a chance for participants to gain qualifications.

As with so many announcements, the Kick Start scheme is welcome. But whether it will really support the Covid-19 generation remains to be seen. The devil is as always in the detail.

Victoria Winckler is Director of the Bevan Foundation


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