Rishi Sunak’s ‘Kickstart’ jobs scheme: Back to the future?

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PA Media

When Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced his £2bn “Kickstart” jobs scheme this week, for some it sounded strangely familiar.

Those of a certain age may remember the Future Jobs Fund – the scheme set up by then-Labour Prime Minster Gordon Brown and Chancellor Alastair Darling in 2009 in reaction to the global financial crash. Like the current Conservative chancellor’s programme, it also provided big incentives to employers to take on young people. Businesses were paid up to £6,500 for each job they created, for jobs that lasted at least six months.

So how successful was the 2009 scheme? We spoke to two people who were on the scheme and one person who helped implement it.

Lisa Connell, 29: ‘You might not get a full-time job from it’

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Lisa Connell

Lisa Connell is a student nurse in Uxbridge. She was on the Future Jobs Fund scheme in 2010. She was finishing college in 2009 and it took her some time to get on the scheme.

“When I applied for the scheme I was unemployed,” she says. “The job that I got through the scheme was working in administration for a local estate tenant management service in Islington, London. They needed to fill a vacancy.”

Lisa hadn’t passed all of her A/S Levels and was living with her mum at the time, and had to go out to work.

“It was purely a six-month opportunity,” she recalls. “But I didn’t get taken on at the end of it – it was a very small office and it was clear that government money was funding my position of 25 hours a week. I will always be grateful for it as it was my first job but once it finished, it was back to a long period of unemployment.”

Lisa says it is important for those who embark on the new scheme to be aware that it won’t necessarily mean a full-time job at the end of it. After her work placement ended, she didn’t have a permanent job for four years, but she believes the Future Jobs Fund was an important addition to her CV.

“I finally got an apprenticeship in 2014 and the scheme I did in 2010 certainly helped me when it came to landing that,” she says. “But it didn’t inform my career – I’m now a student nurse.”

She sees similarities between the 2009 and 2020 schemes. “They are offering 25 hours, training, the government will pay for it – why not just say they are bringing the old scheme back? It will be interesting to see what happens with it. It could take young people out of unemployment for six months – but then what?”

Lewis English, 33: ‘There needs to be support and understanding from employers’

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Lewis English

Back in 2010, Lewis English worked for a firm called Work Solutions, which implemented the Future Jobs Fund for Manchester City Council. He was in charge of the section looking after those working in refuse, cleansing, waste management and roadworks.

“The firm dealt with about 1,000 FJF employees, and I was responsible for around 70 of them,” he recalls. He interviewed candidates, supported them when in place and checked their work.

“A lot of them had been on what was then Jobseeker’s Allowance for a long time, and the whole point of taking them on was to give them work experience. A lot of people had issues with the return to work, particularly as their hours were 7am starts. But they did good work.”

However, he estimates only 60% to 70% completed their placement. Of those who finished the six-month work experience, he says many were very disappointed at not being kept on for a full-time job.

Lewis, who today runs a marketing company called Underpin, in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, says he intends to use the new government Kickstarter scheme to take on two people. His aim is to provide full-time employment should the placements go well.

Of the new scheme, he says: “There needs to be support and understanding from employers that many on the programme may have been unemployed for a long time. Also, there needs to be recognition that English and maths skills are so important in the modern workplace.

“And there needs to be an awareness that schemes like this are potentially open to exploitation – some will see this programme solely as a source of cheap labour, and so it needs to be very closely monitored.”

Ryan Chambers, 32: ‘It may help you in the long term’

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Ryan Chambers

Ryan Chambers was on the Future Jobs Fund scheme back in 2010.

“I dropped out of university and I was struggling to get back into work,” he says. “When I was on the scheme, I ended up in an office where I’d be sat with other people who had been out of work for 10 years. We would be taught how to open emails and suchlike.

“I would keep applying for anything and everything just to get out of that situation. I eventually got a job in an outbound sales call centre – it lasted for about six weeks.”

He kept looking for other roles and eventually got one in a customer service centre where he spent eight years.

“I didn’t have the best experience on the [FJF] scheme but it did help me get a job in the long run,” says Ryan, who is based in Leeds and now works for an internet service provider. He says of Rishi Sunak’s “Kickstart” programme: “I’ve gone through his statement and it does sound extremely similar to the scheme I was on.

“I thought though the scheme I was on was cancelled by David Cameron as it wasn’t economically viable – so how economically viable is this new one really going to be?”

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