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A report from Suffolk Chamber of Commerce into the Government’s Kickstart scheme has praised the level of close working between the Chamber, its partners, the Department for Work and Pensions and the county’s business community which resulted in hundreds of young people benefiting from vital work experience opportunities.

Suffolk Chamber’s People & Skills Group (PSG) commissioned a task & finish group to evaluate the Kickstart scheme which was launched in 2020 at the height of the COVID19 pandemic.

The Government set aside £2 billion to create hundreds of thousands of high quality six-month work placements for those aged 16 to 24 who were on Universal Credit and were deemed to be at risk of long term unemployment. The scheme funded each placement up to 25 hours per week, plus support costs to participating businesses.

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce teamed up with Suffolk County Council, the county’s FE colleges, New Anglia LEP and the borough and district councils to form the Suffolk Gateway Partnership to support local organisations wanting to apply to this landmark Government scheme.

The Partnership secured funding for 516 placements, of which 320 were filled by a qualifying young person.

Richard Brame, chair of the PSG said: “Working with local Job Centres, the Suffolk Gateway Partnership made a substantial contribution to partnering young people with local businesses. We understand that a significant majority of those young workers have been kept on in employment even after their Kickstart scheme placement finished. That is testimony to the scheme and efforts of everyone who participated.”

Acknowledging the speed at which the scheme was set up and the fact that the feared levels of unemployment from the pandemic did not materialise, the PSG report outlines what went especially well and the areas for consideration should a similar scheme be launched in the future.

It made a number of recommendations, including early engagement with businesses, making greater use of online platforms for funding, improving the referrals process and monitoring and some additional flexibility as to the criteria, in this case looking to extend the age range for applicants to up to 29 years.

According to Emma Alderton, Suffolk Chamber’s Kickstart coordinator: “The account management from the DWP was very good throughout, as was our joint working on skills fairs and online meetings and the speed at which applications from businesses were evaluated and approved improved as time progressed.

“Sometimes there was a mismatch between the job requirements and the particular aptitudes and skills of the young person and overall the referral process could have been streamlined.

“We hope that the comments are of use to our colleagues in the DWP and that they help support collaborative partnerships in the months and years to come.”

PSG vice-chair and head of external communications at leading pub company and brewer Greene King, Jo Kreckler, added: “The PSG’s task & finish groups are designed to demonstrate timely leadership in critiquing and/or shaping initiatives that have an influence on our four productivity-related themes. The basic brief for each such group is to capture the business perspective and distil observations and recommendations into a bite-sized format.”

Julia Nix, district manager, East Anglia at the Department for Work & Pensions, explained: “The Kickstart scheme has been a real lifeline for young people during the pandemic, including here in Suffolk. In the East of England alone there’s been over 8,000 placements. The £2-billion-pound scheme has created fantastic opportunities in different fields and has been a genuine avenue of hope for a whole generation to ensure they have the tools necessary to drive this country, and their futures, forward.”

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Suffolk Chamber

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