Back in July when Chancellor Rishi Sunak stood up in the House of Commons to give what amounted to a surprise mini-Budget, the kickstart job placement scheme grabbed a lot of attention. Now, in September, the details have been released and there’s palpable disappointment among employers.
Here’s what the Chancellor said in his speech a couple of months ago:
“The kickstart scheme will directly pay employers to create new jobs for any 16 to 24-year-old at risk of long-term unemployment… These will be new jobs – with the funding conditional on the firm proving these jobs are additional… These will be decent jobs – with a minimum of 25 hours per week paid at least the national minimum wage… And they will be good quality jobs – with employers providing kickstarters with training and support to find a permanent job.”
Many SMEs heard this and got excited: this was a chance not only to do something to help young people facing the toughest employment landscape since at least 2008 but also to boost their own business.
Unfortunately, that big idea has been chipped away at in development and the small print, as announced in early September, reveals a lot of caveats.
First, you can’t just provide a single placement, or even a handful – if you can’t provide temporary roles for 30 young people, you can’t sign up.
It’s clear from that the policy has been built around larger businesses and especially chains. From an administrative point of view, it makes sense – it means fewer forms to be processed and fewer eligibility decisions to be made. But, still – 30!
There is a caveat to the caveat, though: you can band together with other local businesses to form a consortium providing 30-plus placements between you, with one individual acting as a key point of contact or representative.
I was sceptical about how many would bother but the signs are that groups are forming. Check out social media for businesses in your area keen to join up with others and keep the dream alive.
You might also be able to also register your interest with local chambers of commerce, the council or trade bodies, depending on the sector you work in and where you operate.
The size of the cohort isn’t the only limit, though. The placement process also comes with some restrictions: you don’t get to advertise on the open market, you’ll be sent likely candidates via the scheme.
You can say yes or no but what you can’t do is use your own local networks or support particular young people you might know.
Fair enough, I suppose, but some have suggested this indicates what the scheme is really about: massaging unemployment numbers towards the end of the year.
As the popular furlough scheme winds up, the redundancies it held at bay are starting to bite. It’s easy to see why the Government might be keen to send people straight from the unemployment line into a placement, keeping that potentially scary headline jobless figure as low as possible.
But it’s easy to be cynical. Restrictions aside, if this can help young people, I’d urge you to get involved. And I’m speaking from the heart here as someone who spends most of his free time coaching youth football.
Have a think about what your business might be able to offer and if you want to talk through the cashflow and tax implications, give me a shout.
Get in touch for advice on accessing government support and moving your business forward.