Empowering the Freelance Economy

Kickstart Scheme: small businesses can now apply thanks to gateways

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  • Kickstart Scheme axes 30-job minimum requirement

Employers no longer need a minimum of 30 job placements to access the government’s Kickstart Scheme. This means small and medium-sized businesses can apply directly. But businesses can still use gateways to simplify the process, with ICAEW developing its own member portal.

What is the Kickstart Scheme?

Chancellor Rishi Sunak launched the Kickstart Scheme grant last summer to provide funding to create new job placements for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit, with the government committing an initial £2bn to the programme.

“The importance of this scheme is clear when you think of the sectors hard hit by the pandemic, and the high proportion of young people they employ,” said the ICAEW in an Insights report.

The employer initiative, run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), will create six-month paid work placements for young people at risk of long-term unemployment as a result of the pandemic.

What’s changed?

Initially, companies were required to have a minimum of 30 job placements to access the scheme – a requirement which excluded many small businesses from applying directly. A solution to this has been created by ‘Gateway’ organisations such as ICAEW, which can pull 30 people together from different companies in one application, enabling smaller firms to apply. 

As of 3 February 2021, the cap of 30 placements has been scrapped, allowing businesses to apply online or continue to get help from a Kickstart gateway already working with the scheme.

Gateways a new option for SMEs

ICAEW’s Regional Director for North West, Justin Kyriakou, believes businesses should continue to use gateways to apply for the scheme, as applying on their own comes with a raft of administration challenges which a small firm may not be able to process. 

“It’s not just a case of people starting a work experience program and then they are left to their own devices. There have to be regular interventions and regular catch-ups to check how that person is performing,” said Justin Kyriakou.

“This is initially why it was left at 30 because an organisation with the resources could do that administration.”

ICAEW members portal

ICAEW is currently speaking with a growth management company about setting up a white label portal for its members.

The portal will enable members to enter their requirements and the growth company will be able to manage and administer work experience candidates. This allows members to just provide work experience for the people they take on, said ICAEW, as opposed to getting involved in the administration and other work that goes around it. 

The portal is in development and is scheduled to launch on 16 March 2021.

Scheme importance

Kyriakou continued: “It’s really important that ICAEW members are able to give opportunities to people from various different backgrounds, especially younger people at the moment whose lives have been so adversely affected by the last 12 months of lockdowns.

“While it’s obviously important to highlight the potential career possibilities of accountancy to a new generation, it’s worth mentioning that members might also want people for marketing, administration or customer service.”

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for young people to get some paid work experience in the run-up to what could potentially be a very competitive jobs market,” said Kyriakou.

Application process

According to an ICAEW report, employers of all sizes can apply for funding which covers:

Employers can spread the start date of the job placements up until the end of December 2021. Further funding is available for training and support so that young people on the scheme can also get a job in the future.

The DWP has also reminded applicants that if Kickstart gateways have already applied for scheme funding before 28 January 2021 but not yet heard back, the DWP will reply in due course – applicants do not need to apply again.

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