As the number of young people looking to work grows due to the COVID-19 crisis, firms in the Liverpool city region are backing the Government’s Kickstart scheme to help those aged 16-24. Tony McDonough reports
More than 200 Liverpool city region employers are to sign up for the Government’s £2bn Kickstart scheme to help young people into jobs and training.
The new comes as the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the UK jobs market starts to bite. The UK employment rate is now at its highest for two years with people aged 16 to 24 hardest hit, according to official figures.
Latest data for the Liverpool city region shows that as of August 13, there were 165,919 people in Liverpool, Wirral, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and Halton, in receipt of Universal Credit – a rise over just over 1.5% from July.
Liverpool, again, saw the biggest percentage rise in UC claimants, up 1.9% to 56,973; followed by Wirral, up 1.6% to 30,466; St Helens, up 1.4% to 17,649; Halton, up 1.4% to 15,925; Knowsley, up 1.2% to 18,232; and Sefton, up 1% to 26,380.
Between March and May there was a sharp rise in UC claimants across the six city region boroughs. The number is continuing to climb, although at a much slower rate. Not all claimants are unemployed. They also include people in work on a low wage and on UC due to a health condition and not required to look for work.
With the Government’s furlough scheme coming to an end in September the Department for Work and Pensions is bracing itself for a big rise in people out of work over the next few weeks.
However, Jobcentre Plus in the city region says it is particularly pleased with the response from local employers to the Kickstart scheme announced in the summer by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, as part of his Plan for Jobs. It offers to pay employers 100% of the age-relevant National Minimum Wage for young people aged 16-24 for six months.
Jobcentre Plus is teaming up with the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority to help deliver the project locally. Gemma Batchelor, senior relationship manager for Jobcentre Plus Merseyside, told LBN: “While our caseload sizes continue to grow it is encouraging how many vacancies are out there.
“We have had lots of interest from employers across Merseyside in the Kickstart scheme with more than 200 pledging to put in an application for funding in the first two weeks. These placements will offer a fresh start to young people who want a first step on the career ladder and we encourage as many employers as possible to get involved.
“We are also busy recruiting new Work Coaches and will be doubling our numbers in the coming months which will increase the personal support we can provide to our customers.”
Ms Batchelor said they are keen to continue spreading the word on the Kickstart programme. Examples includes Shopping City in Runcorn, which is working with employers based there to put in a joint application, local authorities who are working with their employer networks, colleges and chambers of commerce.
“We expect placements to start to be advertised in October and the first young people will start their fully funded placements in November,” she said.
On the local recruitment efforts she described current job vacancy numbers across the city region as “buoyant”, adding: “We have been support Argos in Widnes, Hermes, I Care and the Contact Company who are all recruiting.”
Employers can find out more about Kickstart by clicking here.