Andrew Crichton discusses reform of the Kickstart Scheme and the benefits it could bring.
I had a strong feeling of Deja vu when the first details of the Kickstart scheme were announced on 8th July 2020. This is not the first time in the past decade that a government has promoted a scheme to create 100,000s of minimum wage jobs for young people aged 18-24 of 25 hours a week and six months long.
The Future Jobs Fund, which the Coalition government scrapped in 2010, was created by New Labour in 2009 to address youth unemployment caused by the global economic crisis. It also offered a way to stimulate the economy by putting money back into the hands of people who were likely to spend it.
I was one of the many young people helped by that scheme, taking up a six-month work placement at my local Volunteer Centre for 25 hours of work a week in January 2011 (The legislation to scrap it hadn’t taken effect at that point). In my role I mostly acted as a stop-gap volunteer, taking elderly people on a weekly shopping trip, organising lifts for vulnerable people to local hospitals and assisting with data entry. After six months of unemployment, it gave me hope again for the future. I have been in work since I took part in the scheme.
Future Jobs Fund jobs like mine had to be roles that would not have existed otherwise, as well as provide benefits to the local community. This ensured that companies and less scrupulous employers did not use the scheme to subsidise employment that would have existed anyway at government expense. The Labour government actively called upon local authorities, voluntary sector organisations and social enterprises to bid for the funding to take on Future Jobs Fund staff. It was huge a success, with a DWP study in 2012 concluding that the fund had a net benefit of £7,750 to society per participant.
Unfortunately, though the current government has made clear that the jobs created by the Kickstart scheme for 18 - 24-year-olds must be additional, there has been no mention so far of any requirement that the roles be created for the benefit of the community.
Without this requirement, it is hard to see how the government could police whether Kickstart Scheme roles are additional or not. Many businesses in hospitality and call centres take on new employees all the time. Worse, if this scheme is not policed properly, we could see paid staff being let go or replaced as they leave by kickstart scheme employees paid for by the state.
This is important because if the jobs would have existed in some form anyway, then the only real benefit of this scheme will be to employers. The 100,000s of jobs subsidised will look impressive on government statistics, but the real net benefit to our many young people struggling in the aftermath of the pandemic will be nil.
If we want this scheme to have a real effect on our young people and the communities they live in then Labour must push the government for benefit to the community to be part of the criteria for these kickstart scheme jobs. Not just because it will mean a real increase in jobs, but because it will revitalise our social enterprises and voluntary sector organisations that have been so impoverished by ten years of Tory rule. It will turn the scheme into an opportunity for young people to perform service to their community while providing them with the skills and experience needed to succeed in the job market.
The Tories could learn much from reading about the successes of the Future Jobs Fund. If they don’t the Kickstart scheme could be a huge wasted opportunity for our young people.
Andrew Crichton works as a Benefit Assessor for a Local Authority in the Midlands. He was formerly the Campaign Co-ordinator in Nuneaton and Loughborough CLPs and has a keen interest in campaigning methods as well as social policies.
He tweets at @andrewlabour