Posted: Mon 4th Oct 2021
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has used his speech at the Conservative Party Conference to announce the extension of the Kickstart Scheme, which allows businesses to provide government-funded jobs to young people.
The scheme is one of three job initiatives that Sunak said will be extended until next year. Kickstart, which funds jobs of six months for 16-24-year-olds receiving Universal Credit, will continue until March 2022. It is open to applications from employers and gateways, which help business owners apply, until 17 December 2021.
Being extended to September 2022 is the Job Entry Targeted Support Scheme (JETS) which provides tailored support for people who have been unemployed for over three months.
The government is also expanding its £3,000 incentive payment for every apprentice a business hires until 31 January 2022.
Business owners welcomed the extension of the Kickstart Scheme but said improvements need to be made. Official figures released last month showed that of the 196,300 Kickstart jobs available across the UK, only 76,970 (39%) had been started by 22 September.
Jess Salamanca, founder of Banana Scoops, has helped more than 150 small businesses access Kickstart Scheme funding and has used it to hire five employees of her own.
She said: "The scheme has been amazing and the extension is incredibly welcomed as there have been numerous delays due to unnecessary bureaucracy, having to wait weeks for a reply to a simple email, different DWP reps giving different advice, job descriptions getting lost and not getting uploaded onto the system.
"It's a wonderful scheme, but it has not been executed efficiently so far, which is why I’m not surprised that it has not met targets. I'm looking forward to the extension so we can finally fill the 150 roles that we currently have pending in my gateway!"
The Northern Affinity founder Michael Edwards, who took on his first employee through the Kickstart Scheme, said: "To hear that the Kickstart scheme has been extended is fantastic, both from a personal and wider business community perspective. We have been able to provide opportunities to four fantastic young people through the scheme, and will look at how we can help others find employment now that the extension has been confirmed.
"The scheme is generally a good one but the infrastructure and processes behind it are very challenging for businesses and young people alike. So I hope that as the scheme continues, those behind it will make improvements in these areas to ensure more businesses are able to help people back into employment."
The chancellor defended the recent announcement of tax rises through the new social care levy. He admitted the increase was "unpopular" and that some people believe it is "un-Conservative", but, Sunak said, allowing borrowing to rise further would be "immoral".
He added: "I have to be blunt with you. Our recovery comes with a cost. Our national debt is almost 100% of GDP so we need to fix our public finances."
Amidst the energy crisis and supply chain problems, Sunak said he was "proud to back Brexit, proud to back Leave" before adding: "Despite the challenges, in the long term I believed the agility flexibility and freedom provided by Brexit would be more valuable in a 21st century global economy than just proximity to a market."
Emma Jones CBE, founder of Enterprise Nation, said: "The chancellor's speech was a celebration of jobs and high growth companies which is understandable but we would have liked to hear more for the 5 million+ people who are working to start and grow small firms.
"The programme referenced for our community was Help to Grow which is open to businesses with 5+ employees. The chancellor has done an incredible job of managing the economy through a tough time but today's speech reinforces that our job must continue to be representing the views and voices of businesses with less than 5 employees - the small businesses that power so much of the economy."
Michael Edwards added: "One thing that needs to be done to provide further support to small businesses is moving away from developing schemes that only focus on jobs/recruitment. We work with a number of businesses that don't employ anyone but might have a team of 20 + freelancers. There are a number of government schemes and initiatives that these people would love to access but can't because of an antiquated measurement of the size/potential of a business.
"The pandemic has accelerated a new flexible world that many now operate in, and it's time the government started supporting those businesses who've adopted the more flexible business model. Why? They are also creating wealth and opportunity just like a business who chooses to go down the route of full time, payrolled employment."
Cheney Hamilton, founder of Find Your Flex, said: "I think the Kickstart Scheme helps early careers, but does nothing for those re-careering or who have lost jobs post furlough or through automation of work.
"The UK needs a government that understands the needs of business. It needs to proffer an organisational change model that allows people to earn more outside of the traditional PAYE models. Outcome based working would help and empower more people out of poverty and into work, than these quick fix schemes that help only one small part of those currently out of employment."