Boris Johnson’s administration cannot be sure of the quality of the jobs created by its Kickstart program – or whether the roles would have evolved anyway without public funding, a watchdog said.
The National Audit Office (NAO) said the government has “limited” assurances as to whether its Kickstart program to help young Britons at work will have a positive impact.
The Department of Labor and Pensions (DWP) launched the £ 1.9 billion program last September after youth unemployment rose in the first few months of the Covid crisis.
Last week, DWP claimed that over 100,000 young people have started work under the program, which grants employers £ 1,500 per six-month internship for those with universal credit.
However, the latest NAO report noted that there were concerns that the program might have created jobs that would have existed when the economy reopened.
The spending watchdog also said more could be done to ensure that the 16- to 24-year-old program, extended through March 2022, “targets those who need it most”.
Gareth Davies, Head of NAO, said, “At the start of the pandemic, DWP acted quickly to set up Kickstart to help young people find work when youth unemployment was expected to rise significantly.”
He added, “However, DWP has limited assurance that Kickstart will have the intended beneficial effects. She doesn’t know whether the jobs that have been created are of high quality or whether they would have existed without the system. “
Labor MP Meg Hillier, chair of the public accounts committee, said the “jury wasn’t there” on the Kickstart program would end up being good value for money.
The influential backbencher said, “DWP was quick to set up the system, but in many ways it has already been overtaken by events. The opening up of the economy has meant that taxpayers may only subsidize jobs that would have existed anyway. “
Ms. Hillier added, “Given the money the government has pumped into the program, DWP has taken a worryingly light approach to setting goals or tracking performance.”
Labor cited figures that show that as many Kickstart spots have been created in the south of England as in the north and the Midlands combined – although demand for the program is 50 percent higher in the latter regions.
The numbers shared by Tory Labor Secretary Mims Davies show that together nearly 39,000 young people have started work in the South, North and Midlands.
“The Chancellor’s ‘Plan for Jobs’ has failed to plan the jobs our country really needs in the places where they are most needed, said Jonathan Reynolds, MP, Labor shadow labor and pensions minister.
He added, “Just like their broken promises on the rail and their working class dementia tax when it comes to jobs, the promises made by the government in the North and Midlands sound hollow.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said last week that he was “so proud” that 100,000 young people have started kickstart jobs. “I’ve seen firsthand how it changed people’s lives,” he said.
In response to the results of the NAO, a government spokesman said: “We acted quickly and decisively to establish Kickstart at the start of the pandemic when fears that unemployment would more than double – as this report admits.”
“The program has already created over 100,000 new life-changing jobs for young universal credit job seekers at risk of long-term unemployment and will continue to provide opportunities for young people.”