Kickstart scheme: Care leavers ‘should be at the front of the queue’ for jobs

Fiona Simpson
Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Care leavers should be “at the front of the queue” for jobs offered through the government’s new £2bn Kickstart scheme, ministers have said.

The government's Kickstart job scheme launches today. Picture: Adobe Stock
The government's Kickstart job scheme launches today. Picture: Adobe Stock

The scheme which launches today gives employers the opportunity to offer young people on Universal Credit state-subsidised work placements offers businesses £1,500 to set up support and training for those on the scheme.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has encouraged companies to sign-up to create thousands of roles for 16- to 24-year-olds amid a rise in youth unemployment due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, when the scheme was announced last month, concerns were raised over disadvantaged young people, including care leavers, missing out on opportunities.

Following the first meeting of the cross-government care leaver board last month, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and minister for welfare delivery Will Quince have pledged to support care leavers to take advantage of the scheme.

Quince said: “Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds must be helped to the front of the queue to take full advantage of these opportunities, with all the support they need.

“As a child in care, your upbringing shouldn’t affect your ability to succeed in the workplace. We’re delivering a plan for jobs that helps people of all backgrounds.

“Care leavers can offer a range of diverse skills to businesses and it’s important they’re not held back from fulfilling their potential in the workplace due to factors out of their control.”

Williamson added: “We know that young people leaving care can face huge barriers in their lives. Employment, education and training can seem out of reach, and we must work together to create opportunities and enable care leavers to grasp them.

“Alongside this £2 billion investment, we need to keep on improving access to housing, healthcare and education which is why I have brought together colleagues from across government on the care leavers covenant board to address these issues and transform the support given to these young people.”

The first meeting of the board heard directly from care leavers about the support they need, Williamson said, adding that it will meet three times a year in a bid to “address the key barriers facing young care leavers as they adjust to independent life as adults”.

Next week, applications will open for the care leavers paid internships scheme, which will provide 12-month paid placements in central government for young people leaving care. Applications open from 7 September to 5 October.

Responding to the launch of the Kickstart scheme, Graham Duxbury, national chief executive of Groundwork, an organisation supported the most disadvantaged communities, said it was vital jobs “are available in the places that need them most, and are accessible to the young people who are most likely to struggle finding work.”

“In times of rising unemployment, young people are particularly vulnerable, and we know from experience that one of the best ways of tackling this is by helping them maintain their motivation and gain valuable experience through temporary jobs.

“The priority now is to ensure that the jobs on offer are purposeful and rewarding – kickstarting the careers of young people, but also kickstarting sections of the economy that need to grow if we’re going to deliver a fair and green recovery from the pandemic.

“This will require not just businesses, but charities, social enterprises and public bodies thinking creatively and working together to generate job opportunities that help improve our wellbeing, enrich communities and protect and improve the environment,” he said.

However, manufacturers organisation MakeUK warned that some organisations may be slow to sign up to the scheme due to the financial impact of the pandemic and social distancing measures.

Verity Davidge, director of central policy and skills at Make UK said the scheme is “a welcome and worthy initiative targeted at those who will be left most vulnerable” but warned: “Manufacturers are also pulling back on their existing education and training programme with work experience, internships and site visits in particular taking a hit, owing to social distancing measures, as well as financial, people and time pressures. Offering a six month placement under the Kickstart scheme will be seen as a big ask, and possibly an ask too far for many firms.”

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