The Government has a “limited” grip on whether its flagship Kickstart scheme for getting young people into employment is actually working, a report has warned.
The National Audit Office (NAO) said officials cannot be sure whether the programme for 16 to 24-year-olds is providing high-quality jobs or targeting the right people.
It comes as a Labour analysis suggests the scheme is failing to support people in the North and Midlands.
As many placements have been created in the South as have been in the North and Midlands combined, despite levels of youth unemployment being higher in those regions, Labour said.
Just under 39,000 young people started jobs in the South. In the North and the Midlands combined, where demand for the scheme is 50 per cent higher, the same number of jobs have been created, the analysis found.
Last week i reported that, with less than a month to go until the application deadline, just 100,000 of the 250,000 target jobs have been filled.
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Jonathan Reynolds, shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “Just like their broken promises on rail, and their working-class dementia tax, when it comes to jobs the Government’s promises to the North and Midlands ring hollow.”
Gareth Davies, head of the National Audit Office, said: “At the start of the pandemic, DWP [the Department of Work and Pensions] acted quickly to set up Kickstart to help young people into work when youth unemployment was predicted to rise significantly.
“However, DWP has limited assurance that Kickstart is having the positive impact intended.
“It does not know whether the jobs created are of high quality or whether they would have existed without the scheme. It could also do more to ensure the scheme is targeted at those who need it the most.”
The DWP launched the £2bn Kickstart scheme in September 2020 after a rise in youth unemployment following the pandemic. The programme aimed to create six-month work placements for young people on universal credit.
A Government spokesperson said: “We acted quickly and decisively to establish Kickstart at the start of the pandemic when it was feared unemployment levels would more than double – as this report acknowledges.
“The scheme has already delivered over 100,000 new life-changing jobs for young jobseekers on universal credit who were at risk of long-term unemployment, and will continue to deliver opportunities for young people.”