Therese Coffey: Kickstart 'on track' but no idea how many Suffolk jobs

John Dugmore and Rt Hon Therese Coffey MP at the Kickstart Scheme launch Picture: DWP

Minister for work and pensions Therese Coffey and John Dugmore chief executive of the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce at the Kickstart Scheme launch in September. - Credit: Department for Work & Pensions

The secretary of state for work and pensions has defended the Kickstart scheme despite it only getting 6,000 young people into work in its first six months.

And Therese Coffey admitted she did not know how many of those jobs were actually in Suffolk.

Speaking after a virtual visit to Suffolk Chamber of Commerce on Friday afternoon, the Suffolk Coastal MP and cabinet minister Dr Coffey said the scheme was "on track" to achieve its target of 250,000 high-quality jobs for under 25s by December 2021.

"Over 150,000 roles have been approved, as in people have applied to us and we have agreed to fund them, but we're still low on starts. It's gone over 6,000 now, I think," she said.  

Dr Coffey said the lack of people starting jobs created by the scheme was due to "the reality of the lockdown restrictions" which, she said, made it difficult for firms to train and induct new employees.

"There's about 30,000 live vacancies where young people can look at that opportunity," she said. "There's about 20,000 being processed for interview.

"The pipeline is there. It's just in particular the lockdown restrictions have held back a lot of people from actually starting their placements."

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She added: "I think we are on track. I'm confident we can catch up and accelerate some of the other elements to do that."

When asked how many of the Kickstart roles were in East Anglia, Dr Coffey said she did not know.

She added: "Part of the challenge — and you're taking me into territory which I'm not sure I want to get into — is that DWP is organised in a different way operationally, geographically, to perhaps what would be the traditional regional breakdowns."

Dr Coffey was also unable to provide a breakdown of where the jobs had been created by the Kickstart scheme under this structure either.

A spokesman for the DWP later confirmed that of the 30,000 Kickstart roles being advertised on February 25, 2,670 were based in the East of England which is thought include parts of Cambridgeshire and Essex. He was also unable to confirm the actual number of people who had started paid jobs as part of the scheme in Suffolk.

Data from the Office for National Statistics reveals that in Suffolk nearly one in 10 (8.9%) people aged between 18 and 24 were claiming out-of-work benefits in February 2021 — up from 4.3% the year before.

Dr Coffey said the Kickstart scheme was: "Certainly one of the opportunities that will be open to young people and there are other ways of supporting people as well that don't just involve the Kickstart programme and we're working through that with our various job centres."