DWP Employment Support: Kickstart Scheme – Report Summary

This is a House of Commons Committee report, with recommendations to government. The Government has two months to respond.

Author: Committee of Public Accounts

Related inquiry: DWP Employment Support 2: Kickstart scheme

Date Published: 25 February 2022

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To combat the forecasted surge in youth unemployment at the end of the COVID:19 Furlough scheme in September 2020, the Department for Work & Pensions (the Department) introduced a £1.9 billion Kickstart scheme to create jobs for up to 250,000 young people that would each last six months, pay at least the minimum wage, and provide at least 25 hours a week of work. We support the intention of supporting young people into work at what was expected to be a downturn in employment opportunities. The scheme was implemented at immense speed, but the early delivery was chaotic with the Department neglecting to put in place basic management information that would be expected for a multi-billion-pound grant programme. As a consequence, the Department has not monitored and does not know whether it is putting the right people onto Kickstart, why people who are not taking up Kickstart jobs are not doing so, or what employers are providing with the £1,500 employability support grants awarded for each young person taken on through the scheme.

Now over one year since the scheme was launched, and as a result of stronger than expected economic growth, it is clear that more people found non-Kickstart jobs than the Department initially anticipated. As a result of this, and the opening up of the economy during 2021, the Department is now forecasting that Kickstart will support far fewer young people (168,000) and also cost much less (£1.26 billion) than envisaged. However, despite these more favourable conditions many of the young people who joined Universal Credit at the start of the pandemic have remained on the benefit since, and the Department has been unable to explain why these people have not moved into Kickstart jobs. At the same time many employers have been frustrated at how long it has taken to fill their Kickstart vacancies, with many waiting months for vacancies to be filled, with no guarantee they ever will be.

The Department aims to provide tailored help based on the understanding its work coaches have of the claimants they work with. However, during our inquiry, it became clear that there isn’t a managed “pathway” or sequence of interventions for each young person, such as somebody who needs to build confidence before they are ready to apply for an open market or Kickstart job, or what engagement there is with employers to sustain employment after Kickstart. It is also hard to see how the Department is using Kickstart in concert with its other employment schemes and therefore getting maximum value for the taxpayer without duplicating spend.

Moving forward the Department has plans to evaluate Kickstart, but, without sufficient monitoring of how the programme has worked in practice as it has gone along, this will only produce partial results. The Department needs to set out much more clearly how it will measure success across all of its employment support schemes, and report more regularly on how schemes are progressing.