Sunak’s kickstart plan isn’t providing value for money, finds NAO


chancellor Rishi SunakThe spending watchdog has said the flagship £2bn pandemic employment scheme to get young people to work may not provide value for money.

A report by the National Audit Office (NAO), and a separate one by a group of peers, has highlighted concerns that youth unemployment policies are either inadequate or flawed.

The Kickstart scheme, launched by Sunak in September 2020, provides government-funded “high-quality” job placements for 16- to 24-year-olds who are on universal credit and at risk of long-term unemployment.

a NAO. report by, which monitors the value of money on public spending, said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had only “limited assurance” that the scheme was working as intended.

The NAO said private sector firms may have received state subsidies to hire young people, anyway, as the economy was reopening as soon as the plan began.

The report also found that while the kickstart had a relatively low start, as demand for workers dwindled due to continued lockdowns, the scheme has so far created 96,700 jobs instead of the targeted 250,000.

When firms began hiring, the NAO said, there was little monitoring by the government to check that the jobs that were funded were of good quality, offering training and support to young employees. and they were offered to the right people.

NAO chief Gareth Davis said: “At the start of the pandemic, DWP acted swiftly to establish a kickstart to help young people find work at a time when youth unemployment was predicted to increase significantly.

“However, DWP has limited assurance that the kickstart has a positive impact. It does not know whether the jobs created are of high quality or that they would have existed without the plan. There is more it can do to ensure that the plan affects those people. targeted to those who need it the most.”

Labor said its own analysis found that the plan was heavily weighted in the South, creating many jobs in the North and Midlands combined, despite high youth unemployment in those areas.

“The chancellor’s ‘jobs plan’ has failed to plan for the jobs our country really needs,” said Shadow DWP minister Jonathan Reynolds.

TUC Secretary General Frances O’Grady said the kickstart was “not perfect”, but had an important role to play.

“The government should now work closely with unions in the next phase so that we can give voice to young workers to improve the scheme,” he said.

A government spokesman said: “We acted quickly and decisively to establish the kickstart at the start of the pandemic, when it was feared that unemployment levels would more than double – as this report acknowledges.

“The scheme provided more than 100,000 new life-changing jobs on universal credit for young job-seekers who were at risk of long-term unemployment and will continue to provide opportunities for young people.”

A separate but equally important report by a cross-party committee on youth employment, with Kickstart’s NAO assessment, is 11.7%.

Peers accused the government of allowing hundreds of thousands of youth to sink into unemployment while they were learning new skills or serving apprenticeships.

Lord Shipley, chairman of the Youth Unemployment Committee, said the government had to levy failed apprenticeships with the aim of changing England’s national curriculum, making career guidance more sophisticated, improving skills training and matching the level of youth employment seen in Germany. need to be improved.

The report produced 71 recommendations to bridge the skills gap, leaving many young people stuck on low incomes without the skills to change their circumstances.

Shipley, a liberal and former Newcastle City Council leader, said 631,000 youth were not in education, employment or training (NEET) and 475,000 were unemployed.

“This means that 21.8% (141,000) of 18-year-olds are neither in full-time education nor working with training,” he said. He said the kickstart scheme was undermined due to the government’s failure to integrate its training component into the comprehensive skilling programme.

Co-author Kenneth Baker of Tory Peer, who pioneered computer skills training in the 1980s as Secretary of Education, said it was a mistake to cancel the ICT GCSE in 2016 when digital skills were essential. This meant only 11% of students under the age of 16 studied computing – a drop of more than 40%, he said.

A government spokesman said: “We are taking action by giving youth the opportunities they need to secure jobs – and with the number of young workers on the payroll above pre-pandemic levels – it is clear that our plans for jobs work. Still working.

“We have announced an additional £1.6bn by 2024-25 to support more 16- to 19-year-olds through high-quality education, on top of additional funding in 2020-21 and 2021-22. This has consistently contributed to a record high proportion of 16 to 18-year-olds in education or apprenticeship since its inception.