(Urgent Question) To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if she will make a statement on the implementation of the kickstart scheme.
Yesterday, the Government launched our new kickstart scheme, as set out in the written ministerial statement and the letter sent to all Members of both Houses. This £2 billion programme will fund the direct creation of thousands of additional jobs for young people at risk of long-term unemployment, to improve their chances of progressing to find long-term, rewarding and sustainable work.
As we build back our economy and return fully to work, a lack of work experience can be a barrier to stepping on to the jobs ladder, which is why, through kickstart, employers will be supported to access a massive recruitment pool of young people who want to work and are bursting with potential. Employers from all industries and across the private, public and voluntary sectors are eligible if they can meet our simple criteria on the provision of roles. Employers will need to show that these are additional jobs which provide the experience and support a young person needs to improve their chances of permanent employment. These need to be new roles that do not simply replace staff recently made redundant.
Funding available for each job covers the relevant national minimum wage rate for 25 hours a week, the associated employer national insurance contributions, and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions, as well as £1,500 for wraparound support. There is no limit to the number of jobs that can be created, and organisations of all sizes are encouraged to participate.
If a business wants to offer only one or two kickstart jobs, as set out in the online guidance, employers can contact their local employer support managers with an expression of interest, and we will work to link them to an appropriate intermediary. These intermediaries could include local enterprise partnerships, local authorities or business groups, ensuring the necessary support is in place to deliver placements effectively. We will continue to be proactive on involving employers and intermediaries following the scheme’s launch yesterday.
We have already undertaken substantial engagement on our labour market strategy. I want to pay tribute to our civil servants in DWP and the Treasury who have brought this scheme to fruition, and I particularly want to thank and recognise my hon. Friend Mims Davies, the Minister for employment, who has worked tirelessly with her usual passion for helping young people get on in life and who I know will continue to do so.
Kickstart is a key strand of our plan for jobs focused on young people and will be a boost for the British economy. I want to encourage businesses and organisations all to take advantage of the most ambitious youth employment programme in our history and help kickstart to become a flying start for our young people.
Since the crisis began, we have been urging the Government to introduce a scheme based on the last Labour Government’s hugely successful future jobs fund to get as many young people into work as possible. We therefore welcome the kickstart scheme in principle, but we want assurances that it will be delivered in a way that maximises its impact. On that note, it is disappointing that it has taken until September for the scheme to be launched, and it is disappointing to have to summon Ministers via an urgent question just to ask basic questions on how the scheme will work.
In July of this year, there were already over 1 million young people not in full-time education or full-time employment. This is an urgent problem and we believe that the three key tests of this scheme are: whether the jobs it provides are real, quality jobs; whether it is available to support smaller businesses as well as larger ones; and whether it provides opportunities for long-term employment beyond the initial subsidised placement.
I ask the Secretary of State, first, how the Government will ensure that the jobs provided under this scheme are genuinely new, additional jobs. That is essential for the scheme to be a success, but how will it be evidenced? Secondly, given the existing scale of need, how will the Government ensure that the jobs that are created go to those who need them most? Even if, say, 200,000 new jobs were created, we could reasonably expect over 1 million young people to be eligible for those jobs. We need those jobs to go where they will have the biggest impact.
Thirdly, what feedback have the Government already received on the arrangements the Secretary of State has outlined for small businesses to participate in the scheme, given that the minimum number of jobs that can be created from a bid is 30? I hope she understands the considerable strength of feeling that already exists from small businesses in relation to that point. Fourthly, the jobs will be for a minimum of only 25 hours a week, but the Secretary of State has already brought back conditionality and sanctions, expecting people to look for work for 35 hours a week. If the Government’s expectation is that everyone should be working 35 hours a week, why are the jobs that the Government themselves are creating not for 35 hours a week?
Finally, while welcoming the scheme, I was alarmed by the Prime Minister’s presentation yesterday of kickstart as an alternative to providing continued targeted furlough support. The furlough scheme was there to ensure that people had jobs to return to when the alternative for many people would have been redundancy if their employers did not have the revenue to meet their payroll. Those circumstances still exist in some businesses—not in all, but in some—and that is why countries such as Germany, France and Ireland are continuing their furlough schemes until 2021. Needed as this scheme is, it cannot be a replacement in those sectors that do not have the ability to train and recruit new staff yet, and I strongly urge the Secretary of State to acknowledge that point too.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his sort of support for the kickstart scheme. I really think that across the House we should see this as an opportunity for us all to help young people in our constituencies. On the principles of the future jobs fund, we have actually taken some learnings from that, on where it worked and where it did not. He referred to the fact that it had taken so long to get here, but we had the pandemic in March and this approach was announced in July. We have worked tirelessly on it and, as I say, I pay tribute to my civil servants in that regard. This is actually quite a contrast to the financial crisis of the late noughties, because I think I am right in saying that that placement scheme did not get going until October 2009. It was a long time before that happened, so we have worked at pace.
There are other elements from last time that we have learned from. Hardly any private sector businesses were involved, and the criteria were so stringent in different ways that, frankly, that scheme was very limited. I know that it is not about setting targets for these things, but the consequence of that was that the future jobs fund achieved just over 100,000 placements, although the ambition had been higher. So we have simplified the criteria.
The hon. Gentleman points to the threshold for small employers to get involved, but it is exactly the same threshold that applied to the future jobs fund, where businesses could only get involved by going through their local councils. We are opening this up in a different way, and I think we will start to see local enterprise partnerships and chambers of commerce getting involved as intermediary bodies, as well as councils. There is also a lot of support for this from many of the mayoral combined authorities.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the number of hours per week. The reason for this is that this is not just about rebates like the coronavirus furlough scheme. Young people will be expected, with their employers, to do more to prepare themselves for the world of work, and that may include work search in additional time. So that is another reason why intermediaries are going to be a key element in helping some of our small businesses to provide these placements, as well as the wraparound support that will be required. On the other elements to which he referred, I know that he has tabled several written questions and he will be answered.
I thank the Secretary of State for a very helpful update. By way of some instant feedback, I found in my inbox this morning many questions from employers in Warrington South who are already keen to be part of the kickstart scheme. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government will pay 100% of the cost of wages, national insurance and pension schemes, so there is no reason why businesses in Warrington South cannot sign up and create new jobs for young people?
My hon. Friend is right: we are paying 100% for 25 hours a week, which is the minimum hours that we would expect people to be working. Of course, if employers want to pay more and do more, they can. This is not a limitation on the ambitions of organisations or the relevant contributions. I am pleased to say that people can go on gov.uk/kickstart today and see the online guidance. If they are a small business and cannot offer 30 jobs over the next 18 months, they can go straight to a contact in the DWP, and we will do that linking for them. More than 6,000 people had already started an application yesterday. That is very encouraging, and I am excited about it.
We welcome any intervention that can protect jobs and secure the future of young people across these isles. The most effective intervention would, of course, be to extend the furlough scheme. I have three clear questions to ask in the time I have. First, why have the UK Government failed to respond to Scottish Government correspondence asking to work together on the implementation of the kickstart scheme, which is for Scotland, England and Wales? The Scottish Government have introduced a £60 million youth guarantee, which will guarantee every young person an opportunity for education, a job or training, backed by additional funding for apprenticeships and the new job start payment.
Secondly, why have the UK Government set as a minimum to qualify for the kickstart scheme that employers need to take on 30 new employees? Adding the bureaucracy set out yesterday will not help small businesses or young people in Airdrie and Shotts, and there is deep concern from the Federation of Small Businesses about this being a barrier, so why is there a 30-job minimum? Finally, will kickstart participants be paid the real living wage? I understand that they will not —why not?
The hon. Member may not be clear on the elements of the scheme, so I encourage him to read the written ministerial statement, the “Dear colleague” letter and what is on gov.uk. It is not a case that an employer has to come forward with a minimum of 30 placements over the lifetime of the scheme. That is if they want direct access to the DWP and a direct relationship, which is completely different from what happened under the future jobs fund. Small businesses can go through intermediaries, and that is why we have those links.
In terms of working with the Scottish Government, I am very conscious, and it is right, that the Scottish Government should be doing elements of this. Scotland has the highest unemployment rate in the UK, so it is no surprise that they are trying to fix that. It is important that we have the scheme consistently across Great Britain. In Northern Ireland, this is entirely devolved, but we will be working closely with it. It is important that we have a national framework and local delivery, and I am pleased that our jobcentres in Scotland are already on the case.
The kickstart scheme is a brilliant example of the lengths that this Government are going to in order to support employment across the whole country. Will my right hon. Friend join me in urging businesses in Blackpool South to sign up and take part in the scheme, so that we can make a real difference to the lives of young people in my constituency?
My hon. Friend is so right. He is a great champion for the young people of Blackpool, as well as people of all ages. This scheme is really important to help communities such as Blackpool, and I am pleased that he is taking a lead in promoting it. It is key that we have a wide range of placements available. Of course, all referrals will be through the Jobcentre Plus network. It is that local partnership between our jobcentres and local employers, as well as the national approach that can be taken by larger organisations, that will mean that this reaches every part of the country, from coast to coast.
I opposed the closure of the future jobs fund in 2011. The Work and Pensions Committee, in its report in June, highlighted what a great job that scheme did 10 years ago, and I warmly welcome and applaud its return. Will the Secretary of State encourage charities, as happened last time, to take full advantage of the scheme, because they can create jobs that will give many young people a great start to their working lives? What will she do to ensure that disabled young people can take full advantage of it? Will she ensure the collection of sufficient data to allow a thorough evaluation subsequently, like the one published by her Department in November 2012?
I welcome the endorsement of the Select Committee Chairman. He will recognise some similarities to the future jobs fund, but ours is a much more ambitious programme and we are opening up more gateways into making sure that young people can access work and support. Of course the scheme is open to charitable organisations, which have been part of aspects of our engagement in considering the design of the programme and can be a very useful source here. My ministerial colleague in the Lords, Baroness Stedman-Scott, has great experience from her previous organisation and is already being an active ambassador with not only a variety of companies but other institutions, as is the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend Mims Davies.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the young people of this country are our future and that the kickstart scheme is both a huge help to them in securing work and gaining valuable experience and immensely helpful to businesses that are coming out of lockdown and getting back to business, as it helps them to add to their workforce?
I agree with my hon. Friend that this is a mutually beneficial arrangement for young people and employers. The amount of money that has already been set aside is £2 billion of investment over, in effect, the next two years. We know that unlimited placements can be generated, and I am conscious that we need to try to get those partnerships going quickly, so that we can help young people to get on that first rung of the ladder.
What safeguards has the Secretary of State put in place to ensure that disabled young people are fully able to benefit from the kickstart programme? The employment rate for them stands at 37%, which compares with a figure of 57% for non-disabled people, so will she ensure that this new programme supports disabled young people?
The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work has, as with all DWP Ministers, been a key part of making sure we work at this as an entire Department. We have also been working with colleagues right across government, so we are taking a whole-government approach. Ensuring that we keep monitoring this issue has a role to play in this. In answer to Stephen Timms, let me say that we will be keeping this scheme going and trying to learn from it as we go, to make sure that we are reaching all parts of not only the country but our communities.
I welcome the opportunity for young people to gain work experience, but the objective of kickstart must be sustained employment. Will my right hon. Friend tell me how kickstart will help young people into work beyond the six-month placement?
It is widely recognised that getting is job is easier once someone has had work experience and is in a job already. This creation of thousands of additional jobs through this scheme will, in itself, help to stimulate young people’s chances of getting future long-term employment. This is only one of the offers being made to the young people in our country today—there will be different routes that people might take—but we are particularly focusing here on kickstart, where we are trying to avoid the long-term scarring that could happen if people do not get any work at all.
Cyber College Cymru in Blaenau Gwent gives opportunities for young people in the digital security sector, where there is strong employer demand. That industry will be vital to our future economy. Boosting jobs for young people is the right thing to do, but this needs to deliver long-term job security. Will the Minister clarify how many jobs will be created by the scheme and over what period?
We have currently set aside £2 billion to support this scheme, so well over 200,000 jobs could be created, but, as I have said, the number is unlimited. On different sectors, government itself is not going to create lots of jobs, although I am sure there may well be opportunities in aspects of the civil service and similar. This is about working with different sectors. We know there are growth sectors where we need more people to go into them. The hon. Gentleman recognises that there are shortages of certain skills, and indeed he refers to his local college. There will be opportunities for local employers who are needing those skills to take this scheme as an opportunity to bring a young person on, as well as help with training.
I welcome the opportunity that the kickstart scheme provides for many young people in Stoke-on-Trent Central whose employment prospects have been affected disproportionately in this pandemic. It is a great opportunity for them to get a foot on the jobs ladder. I thank my right hon. Friend for confirming that kickstart is open to employers from all sectors—large and small—businesses and charities. Will she confirm that information about this great scheme is readily accessible both to employers and to young people themselves?
I thank my hon. Friend. I know that she is a huge champion of getting young people to become entrepreneurs and that this is a passion of hers. Yes, the information is there on gov.uk/kickstart. Of course, if, in feedback, we hear that more information is needed, we will continue to update that. Our jobcentres are ready to help a large number of people to try to find that placement, and I genuinely believe that she, along with her hon. Friends in Stoke, will be helping to get more employers and other organisations involved.
The award-winning Tayport Distillery in my constituency is very keen to take part in the kickstart scheme, but it is much harder for small businesses to apply, as they cannot do so directly if they are not taking on more than 30 people, and, frankly, intermediary bodies’ information seems to be, at best, in development. Given the delays already experienced—we still have a couple of months until the first participants start the scheme—will the Secretary of State make it easier for small businesses, which are the lifeblood of many economies, by allowing them to apply directly?
The scheme is being set up at pace, so I do not agree with the hon. Lady’s assertions. On small businesses, it is far easier than it has ever been for them to participate in this sort of job creation scheme. I am pleased that she already has businesses showing interest, and I encourage her to direct them to gov.uk/kickstart from where they will be able to get the links to their local employment manager.
I thank my right hon. Friend for this announcement today. It has been truly inspirational telephoning large and small local businesses in Derbyshire Dales, as there is quite a level of excitement about the scheme. I know that she is determined to help young people across the country. It is crucial to their lives. Can she confirm what other support, other than the kickstart scheme, is available for young people to help them get over this pandemic?
The Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex, has held a roundtable meeting in Derbyshire. That has been part of the engagement. My hon. Friend Miss Dines is right to suggest that there are other alternatives. Of course apprenticeships are available, which was further confirmed yesterday with the announcement of additional support, providing a longer-term relationship between young people and an employer. There are traineeships as well. So there are many opportunities available to try to help our young people get into the world of work.
Paying some 17-year-olds £4.55 an hour for a three-day week for six months is welcome as far as it goes, but it is not going to avert the looming jobs crisis. The best way to avert that crisis is to extend the job retention scheme. Does the Secretary of State agree that that scheme should be extended, and if not, is this not less kickstart and more a kick in the teeth for millions of other workers living in the UK?
I do not know the hon. Member very well, but I am disappointed by his attitude. Candidly, millions of jobs have been protected by the furlough scheme, and we have extended that once already. He will be aware that Scotland has the highest unemployment rate in the UK. That is not a record for the SNP Government to be proud of, which is why we are ensuring that the kickstart scheme reaches all parts of Scotland. I hope that he will join in and try to make this a success in his great city of Aberdeen.
I welcome this outstanding scheme to get the young people and the lifeblood of our future economic prosperity into work. I am slightly concerned, however, that some unscrupulous employers may use this scheme to reduce the hours of people already on their books, or potentially not to give the hours to people who are already with them on flexible contracts. Will my right hon. Friend explain what safeguards are in place in the scheme to stop employers from doing that and to make sure that the rights of existing workers are also respected?
My hon. Friend is right to talk about existing workers. We have been clear in our guidance, and will continue to be so in our assessment of applications, that this is not simply displacing existing roles. I am confident that, in particular on small businesses, with the involvement of the intermediaries, that extra quality assurance will be there. I am sure that when he is out and about in his lovely constituency, he will be able to champion the scheme and show how people can get that link.
As our economy reopens following many challenging months, now is the time to build a recovery that will work for young people and the planet they will inherit by investing in green jobs. How will the kickstart scheme contribute specifically to our green recovery from covid-19?
The hon. Gentleman is right that part of building back better is about building back greener. In several of the sectors where we have been encouraging ways to get involved in kickstart as well as apprenticeships, it will be about that green recovery. As I said earlier, it is not that we can create in every individual job. That is why we are working with organisations and businesses to try to do that. I believe that this boost of paying wages for 25 hours a week for a young person who is bursting with potential and wanting to get into the world of work will be a boost to those companies in and around his constituency who want to have that green recovery.
I very much welcome yesterday’s launch of the kickstart scheme, which can do much to help young people across Great Britain get into work. Since the launch, I have heard from a number of small business owners such as Hal Holmes-Pierce, who runs an independent shoe shop in Prestatyn and is keen to be involved. Will the Secretary of State reassure me that business owners such as Hal will be able to take part in the scheme?
I am sure my hon. Friend will be pleased that we are establishing a youth hub in Rhyl in his constituency, which will be part of an important link between our Jobcentre Plus network and local businesses such as those to which he refers. I am sure we can get under way with more webinars and similar so that we can bring employers into this exciting opportunity for young people in his constituency.
As my right hon. Friend Stephen Timms and my hon. Friend Rachel Hopkins highlighted, young disabled people are far more likely to experience unemployment. Even before the pandemic, 29% of disabled 16 to 24-year-olds were not in education, employment or training compared to 9% of their non-disabled peers. If they are black or working class, they are even more likely to experience unemployment. I heard what the Secretary of State said, but will she be clearer about what specific measures her Department is taking to ensure that the kickstart programme targets those who most need support? There is a real danger that they will be left completely behind and suffer even greater disadvantage during the pandemic.
Actually, the employment gap between disabled people and people without disabilities has narrowed under the Government since 2010. That is a record of which we are proud, but we know there is still more to do. In terms of a national framework, it is clearly important to try to help people with disabilities get into work. There is already a wide range of funds, so I am conscious that local jobcentres will be working with potential employers or other organisations to try to ensure that everybody who needs the most support and who would be away from the employment market for the longest without that intervention, will be covered.
I am absolutely sold on this superb initiative and it received a ringing endorsement yesterday from our hard-working jobcentres in east Berkshire. Could I please ask the Secretary of State how the Government intend to convince our perennial doomsters about its full utility and longevity?
I appreciate my hon. Friend’s enthusiasm and endorsement. He is right to be enthusiastic about this opportunity for young people. The scheme is intended to take applications up to December 2021 to roll into summer 2022. Of course, this is just one element of our Government’s plan for jobs, but the ambition is unprecedented. I can think of a whole series of large employers in his constituency such as 3M and Waitrose headquarters who I am confident can join, but it is also bristling with smaller employers who I hope will be able to join the scheme, too.
It is good to see the Secretary of State learning not only from the Future Jobs Fund example but the Jobs Growth Wales example set by the Welsh Labour Government over the past few years. It is so crucial that this leads to long-term employment, not just temporary employment, so will she agree to work closely with the Welsh Government to dovetail this scheme with the existing Jobs Growth Wales scheme, the apprenticeship scheme, the traineeship scheme and the ReAct scheme, which are already in place, to ensure that there is a full package for young people in particular to stay in work? Will she look again at the 30-person limit? SMEs are a much bigger part of the economy in Wales and we need to ensure that they are able to benefit as much as they can from the scheme.
The Government already have close relationships on aspects of trying to help people get into work. It is worth pointing out that the Welsh Labour Government’s own report into Job Growth Wales, published in June this year, found that the programme suffered from a lack of clarity and momentum. It does not matter who provides the support to get people into work, whether it is the Welsh Government or the United Kingdom Government. I want to make sure that we focus on the young people for whom it is intended, rather than some of the bureaucracy that may come in other ways.
I support the general principle of the Government intervening to help young people into work in this way and I was really disappointed in 2010 when the Government dropped the Future Jobs Fund. I am slightly disappointed that this scheme has been allowed to be designed in such a way that it is for the convenience of the Department, rather than small businesses. Having been a Government Minister I know how this works in the Department for Work and Pensions, but could the Minister, in all seriousness, go back and talk to officials and see if there is any way of making this more friendly to small businesses?
The hon. Gentleman talks about the Future Jobs Fund. It was a failure in getting the private sector involved. It was a failure in getting much smaller businesses involved. That is why we have stripped back the criteria to focus on what really matters for the young person, rather than a tick-box exercise on all sorts of different benefits that needed to be created. I am not trashing the Future Jobs Fund, because the intention was absolutely right, but we want to make sure that this has a wider ambition. There is already a youth hub in Cardiff. We have already had approaches about wanting to get involved. That is why the gateway for small businesses is much simpler than it has ever been in previous similar schemes. I am confident that we will make it a success.
Charities and social enterprises delivered over 60% of placements under the Future Jobs Fund, with over half retaining employment after six months. However, most organisations can only take on one or two young people due to capacity. The Labour Government worked closely with the sector to make it easily deliverable, yet this Government’s engagement with charities and social enterprises has been insufficient. Will the Secretary of State commit today to meet sector leaders from organisations such as the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and Social Enterprise UK to ensure that every job that can be found is found and that young people are given real hope and a future?
The hon. Lady should be aware that there have been 330 stakeholder engagements with a mixture of groups and of course social enterprises will be a key element of that. The important thing is that we make sure we have good jobs for young people to go into. I absolutely believe that social enterprises will be an important part of that. When I was at Canary Wharf yesterday at the launch of the scheme, the social enterprise around the Canary Wharf Group was expressing interest in how it can bring together a number of different organisations in Canary Wharf to make sure a wide variety of businesses can be involved. That absolutely has to be the way forward.
Some 72% of the population in my constituency are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. What reassurances can the Secretary of State give me that measures will be taken to ensure that young people from minority backgrounds have equality of access and opportunity under the scheme, and that the systemic inequality we all know exists in our employment market will not be allowed to be a feature of the scheme?
The hon. Lady is right to focus on the young people in her constituency and their challenges to employment. There is already a youth hub in Birmingham. We are learning from the employability coaches who are already in place. The West Midlands Combined Authority is very keen. The Mayor and the chief executive, Deborah Cadman, are very engaged in wanting to make this happen. My officials will be meeting the West Midlands Combined Authority again today.
The UK is one of the most regionally unequal countries in the developed world, especially when it comes to employment, so will the Secretary of State say how the kickstart scheme fits with the Government’s levelling-up agenda? What guarantees can she give that communities such as the ones that I serve in South Yorkshire will get the additional support that they need?
I think the hon. Gentleman was in a roundtable with my hon. Friend the Minister for Employment that focused on that issue. Part of our approach is about having a national framework but a lot of local deliverability, with very local connections, so it is part of the local recovery. I am sure that he and several other Mayors who have been in those roundtables are very up for that. Of course, trying to level up across the country is a key priority for the Government, and we will be straining every sinew to help people like the hon. Gentleman, with his local community, to try to generate those jobs.
By giving them opportunities to get their foot in the door, this scheme demonstrates that this Government are really going to help young people get on in life. I have already started discussions with my local chamber of commerce, because I am keen to work with businesses in Crewe and Nantwich that are really keen to get involved. Will the Secretary of State confirm how small businesses are able to take part in the scheme, to push away some of the negativity we hear, which is not based in reality?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I assure him that the British Chambers of Commerce has been heavily involved in this. Of course the full details came out yesterday. I know that individual chambers of commerce may well be set up as intermediaries. They need to do what is right for them. I have made it clear that that cannot be only for their members; the organisations that they reach have to be broader than that. I am confident that we will get those intermediary bodies that are not already established up and running very quickly, and I encourage him to make sure that his local chamber is one of them.
The future jobs fund was not a 100% success, although it had many merits. Will my right hon. Friend outline what improvements have been made in the kickstart scheme?
My hon. Friend is right; the future jobs fund did have some good achievements, and we have learned from what worked well and what did not work so well. The main thing I would point out is that this is a much bigger programme with a much wider range of involvement and, even if some of that is through an intermediary, every organisation can easily get involved. We have simplified the criteria. We are still making sure that these are new additional roles, but it is important that we try to get some of these placements under way. I am sure that we will have some very lively kickstarters starting their new jobs before the end of the year.
This is a very welcome scheme, but it does not apply to Northern Ireland. Under devolution, we have the opportunity to develop a local scheme with a Barnett consequential; however, it was only this morning that our Department for Communities indicated its intention to do so. Can the Secretary of State confirm that her officials are willing to help Northern Ireland to develop its response?
I was in Northern Ireland last week meeting senior people from the Department for Communities as part of a fact-finding mission. Our officials are in regular contact, but the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that this is a devolved matter. If the Department for Communities would like our help as part of the mutual relationship that we already share, we would be happy to support, but it is important to state that this is devolved, and we absolutely respect that.
Three jobcentres serve my constituency: in Barton, Immingham and Grimsby. I visited the Grimsby site a couple of weeks ago, and the staff there are enthusiastic about the work they are doing to encourage young people. One thing that cannot happen under the present arrangements, of course, is the usual programme of job fairs and similar group undertakings. Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that we need close links between jobcentres and further education colleges, for example, in order to encourage our young people into this scheme?
There are usually already very good relationships between colleges and jobcentres. There are actually some virtual job fairs happening already; there is a particularly big one in London today focused on accounting. That is the not quite the new normal, but it is to try to engage a wider group of people. I will ask the local area manager to follow up with my hon. Friend to make sure that he is fully aware of all the virtual job fairs that are available.
Midlothian is the fastest-growing region of Scotland, with record growth in new businesses operating there. They would welcome the chance to use the kickstarter scheme, but 93% of them are SMEs and cannot access the funding directly. Why is the Minister putting big business first and putting bureaucratic blocks in the road for small businesses, who are the backbone of the economy?
I was also in Scotland last week, talking about the potential of this in helping young people right across Scotland. Barriers have actually been removed from previous designs of schemes. This is a straightforward way to try to help people to get involved, but it is important that the extra support that goes to help these young people is delivered at good quality. That will be important for the employer but also for the intermediary, who will often have a greater amount of experience to help to ensure that this is fully effective.
Tourism is vital to north Devon, and many small tourism businesses such as Mill Park caravan and campsite in Berrynarbor are enthusiastic about recruiting local young people through the kickstart scheme. Will my right hon. Friend detail how smaller businesses wanting to take on just one or two young people in rural areas like north Devon can participate, when we are currently lacking any intermediaries?
I am pleased to hear that people in my hon. Friend’s constituency are keen to get involved in offering these opportunities for young people. The best way, if they have an expression of interest, is for them to contact the local jobcentre or directly email their expression of interest to the contact, which is set out on gov.uk/kickstart with one simple link to go from there.
In terms of access, there will be an opportunity for potential umbrella organisations that may include her destination marketing organisation as a way of co-ordinating this approach. We are also expecting local enterprise partnerships to get heavily involved. I know that many discussions are already under way.
Order. To allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I am suspending the House for three minutes.