Kickstart: A VCSE sector response is needed

In this guest blog post, Steve Roberts, Director of Youth, Employment and Skills at Groundwork North East and Cumbria, tells us more about the Kickstart initiative to help create jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds.

  • More young people are losing their jobs than any other age group due to the coronavirus pandemic (Office for National Statistics Sept 2020)
  • According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), employees aged under 25 were about two-and-a-half times more likely than other employees to work in a sector that is now shut down
  • North East businesses are reporting the highest decreases in turnover due to Covid-19 (ONS)
  • “Young people are facing many worries and challenges at this time. Some of us are on zero hours contracts and are losing jobs, or their work has closed so they have zero income, and no one is around to tell you what’s happening and help you understand it at all. Many people rely on jobs as an escape from home life, especially me, and I have been so eager to go to work. Me myself, I have zero knowledge around if my work will ever open again; it could be back to square one in the job hunt, which will be soul destroying for me.” (This quote is from 'The impact of Covid-19 on young people and the youth sector’ by UK Youth).

In times of crisis it’s often left to the VCSE sector to both respond to the immediate consequences, and to deliver solutions to navigate our way out of the crisis. The North East needs the VCSE sector, now more than ever, to take a lead in supporting young people to avoid the perils of languishing in short-to-medium-to-long-term unemployment. Many of us were central to that response following the economic crisis of 2008 through the Future Jobs Fund; we can and should do it again now.

The government has announced a new £2 billion Kickstart scheme, due to begin in November 2020. The aim is to create hundreds of thousands of new, fully subsidised jobs for young people. Jobs are funded for 25 hours per week for up to six months and are open to those aged 16 to 24 who are claiming Universal Credit (for those of a certain age there is no indication yet that this will include trials bike riders bunny-hopping onto a VW Beetle…)

The VCSE sector has the opportunity to take on local young people to increase delivery capacity, and in turn meet evident demand in services. The experience gained by the young person working in the sector is something that will stay with them and influence their behaviours for the rest of their life. The VW Beetle obstacle however is the need to provide at least 30 job opportunities; otherwise there is a need to use a ‘representative’

Groundwork and a host of other organisations, not just in the VCSE sector, but in the public and private sectors too, are putting themselves forward as representatives. The North East, based on population and the disproportionate impact of Covid-19, should aim to help 20,000+ young people.

Groundwork aims to support 2,000+, but we need employers of all shapes and sizes to come forward and benefit from this opportunity. If you would like to employ a Kickstart young person or to have a conversation about this, please email GNEC.Kickstart@groundwork.org.uk or give me a call on 07827891846. Alternatively you can correspond with the Department for Work and Pensions Kickstart Scheme employer contacts.