An open letter citing the need for an extension to the Kickstart youth employability scheme has been signed by leading members of sector trade body ERSA. The statement, published below, calls on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the programme to December 2022.

ERSA comprises hundreds of organisations tasked with delivering services to Kickstart participants. Almost 800 people from more than 470 organisations contribute to ERSA’s Kickstart Forum.

The letter, in full, reads as follows:

Dear Chancellor,

On 8th July 2020 you announced that “a new £2 billion Kickstart Scheme will be launched to create hundreds of thousands of new, fully subsidised jobs for young people across the country.” This came as a welcome investment by all of us in the employment support sector, we know the value and importance of creating new jobs for young people at a time when jobs are hard to come by.

On 2nd September 2020, the Department for Work and Pensions launched the scheme.

On 4th September ERSA launched the Kickstart Forum, a community of good practice of employment support organisations who are now Kickstart Gateways, employers, and provide wrap around support to achieve positive long-term outcomes. 796 people from 472 organisations participate in the ERSA Kickstart Forum with an ongoing collaborative online “chat” sharing good practice and problem solving. The ERSA Forum has worked with the DWP, with the department’s policy and Kickstart implementation leads attending ERSA Forums. This is the Kickstart collaboration that responded to Kickstart immediately and continues to do so. The forum members have achieved results and successes, but there is so much more we could do to contribute to launching young people’s careers.

This is why the ERSA Kickstart Forum supports the call from the Youth Employment Group for an extension to Kickstart. To reinforce our message of support we would like to share our experience of working to make Kickstart a success.

Kickstart is one of the largest employment programmes in recent history and it has been launched during an economic and health crisis. There have been real challenges rolling out the scheme in the expected timeframe and restrictions on businesses that have delayed opportunities getting to young people. It is because of these circumstances, and a firm belief in the potential of the scheme to transform lives and drive business recovery, that we are calling for you to extend Kickstart to December 2022.

Delays in implementing the scheme and ongoing restrictions on the economy due to Covid has resulted in Kickstart roles being approved later than expected, jobs being advertised later, and employees starting work through Kickstart later. The scheme is already four months behind schedule, and with both Covid restrictions and implementation challenges an extension to the scheme will ensure Kickstart is able to deliver the intended new jobs.

The employment support sector knows there is never a quick fix for those at the back of the queue. Research shows how the ‘recovery years’ are not experienced by all. Recessions are longer and deeper for young people. Kickstart needs to run throughout 2022 to get maximum value from the billions invested.

Businesses in the ERSA community of good practice are now filling the first vacancies – in February 2021. An extension to the end of 2022 will enable these Gateways to deliver the jobs they had planned for the lifetime of Kickstart. The first jobs started later than expected and the potential of Kickstart should not be restricted by an end in December 2021.

Kickstart has the potential to increase apprenticeship numbers by stimulating employer demand and opening-up access to previously disenfranchised young people. Several employers are commencing Kickstart placements in March 2021 with the aim of taking these young people into their September apprenticeship intake; extending Kickstart would enable this to happen twice and could help turn the tide on the lack of apprenticeships going to NEET young people.

More time is required to create strategic alignment with Government objectives. Thousands more new jobs are needed in key sectors which so far have not been able to respond to Kickstart at scale. More time for partnerships to develop could create, for instance, 1,000s of new jobs in the green economy, social care, and education. Kickstart can play a key role not only in the economic recovery, but also in other strategic objectives like Building Back Better, Levelling Up and the Green Industrial Revolution. The ERSA Forum has convened a smaller working group to support the development of these ideas and we ask for your support to enable this work to come to fruition.

It is because of the circumstances we have outlined, and a firm belief in the potential of the scheme to transform lives and drive business recovery, that we are calling for you to extend Kickstart to December 2022, in line with the YEG paper recently published here

Members of the ERSA Kickstart Forum, and the wider network of ERSA members have given their backing to this request and their signatures are appended to this letter.

Yours sincerely

Elizabeth Taylor, Chief Executive of ERSA

Please see the original article featured in FE News on 22 February 2020 including the appended list of signatories to the Chancellor here. 

The Kickstart Community Forum

Part of the Youth Employment Forum. This community forum brings together employers, gateways, change makers, commissioners and others interested in getting Kickstart right for young people. The ERSA Kickstart Community Forum meets monthly and you can find out more here.