East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce hits back at Chancellor’s Kickstart decision and promises to continue to offer best value to Employers.

Following the Chancellor’s removal of the minimum placement criteria for small business on Friday, the Chamber has learnt that this action was taken in response to the Treasury’s concern over Kickstart Gateways offering a poor support service and failing to pass on the £1,500 training grant to Employers.

Under the Kickstart Scheme, for each placement, gateway providers receive £300 from the DWP to support administrative costs, while employers are supposed to receive £1,500 per placement for help with setup costs and employability skills training.

Gateway providers and employers were free to come to “suitable arrangements” on how that support would be provided in the best interests of the young person in question.

However, it would seem some Gateways saw this as a revenue opportunity and were charging employers the full £1,500 for ‘wrap around’ support.

Miranda Barker, CEO of East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said, “It is very disappointing to hear that other Gateways have failed to see the principle behind this scheme, instead putting their own interests first. The Chamber feels passionately that Kickstart can tackle the growing issue of youth unemployment. Clearly, this will be more needed than ever over the next few years as we recover from the economic crisis. It is paramount that the needs of the Employer and the Young Person are at the heart of any Gateway offer.

“When we registered as a Gateway, we committed to ensure that our Employers are not left ‘out of pocket’. We’re dedicated to working together to ensure this grant is invested with the spirit of the scheme in mind. The aim is to best develop and add employability to each young person’s future. We’ve been clear that this needs to consider in-house mentoring and 1-2-1 training, our own Kickstart employability workshops, travelling expenses or even suitable clothing – it is not and was never additional income for the Gateways.

“This scheme was announced by Government in summer 2020 without the systems in place to deliver it, causing much frustration for businesses and for us as a Gateway. I’m pleased to say we have fine-tuned all the systems our applications are now finally being approved for young people to get into work, which is what the scheme is all about”.

The Government must now;

  • Cast iron guarantee that DWP will prioritise clearing the back log of placements already in the system rather than fast tracking new, direct submissions
  • Guarantee that future applications will be dealt with on first come, first served basis
  • Give preference to Gateway submissions, recognising they will have been through a thorough due diligence check and be swifter to approve
  • Commit on speed of processing from submission to approval
  • Speedy payments for work already completed by Gateways since Sept 2020

Commenting further, Miranda added, “The Chamber has already submitted hundreds of applications for consideration and has now secured approval for our regional employers. We’ll continue to be open to all who need our support.

“Despite the Chancellor’s statement, we will continue to work with Employers, Job Centre Plus staff and our own Chamber Business Training arm to offer great value for money. Ours is a smooth and supportive service and ensures we play our part in building back the East Lancashire economy”.

For more information about our Kickstart support, visit our Kickstart page or email enquiries to kickstart@chamberelancs.co.uk