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Kickstart scheme applications top 65,000

The government’s £2 billion Kickstart job placement scheme has attracted more than 65,000 applications in its first month, as the UK’s benefits system braces for a significant rise in unemployment as a result of the pandemic.

“I think it’s an amazing start. It really is a flying start,” said Work and Pensions secretary Therese Coffey.

Launched in September, Kickstart is part of the Plan for Jobs, a portfolio of programmes to support employment through the coronavirus pandemic.

It is intended to create thousands of subsidised jobs for young people aged 16-24 on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment.

Funding for each placement covers the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus National Insurance contributions and minimum pension contributions for six months. Employers can top up the pay of those on the scheme, although there is no requirement to do so. An additional £1,500 per job is also provided to employers for “set-up costs, support and training.”

Coffey said: “It's not just a trial, it's really about making sure young people have a proper active job, but also the extra funding of £1,500 pounds per person will give them that wraparound support, so they can develop some of the softer skills and basically get ready for the next part of their career and try and have a successful jobs search as possible.”

The number of people on universal credit soared during the first wave of the pandemic with 2.7 million people claiming by August, a 120.8% increase since March.

Speaking on Wednesday, at Molinare, a London-based TV and film post-production company approved to provide 37 Kickstart roles, Coffey added: “We set out the guidance and how people could apply and what was required by employers, and I know that as of last Friday we’d certainly had well over 65,000 job placements bid for already.”

At the launch of the scheme, Jane Gratton, head of people policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “At a time when cashflow is tight, this fully funded scheme will help employers bring young people into the workplace and develop new talent for the future.

“To be successful, Kickstart needs to create long-term, quality employment opportunities and ensure that both businesses and employees are fully supported throughout the placement.”