Councils have brought real added value to dealing with the economic implications of the crisis. They have been trusted to deliver advice and grants to local businesses, help the unemployed while jobcentres dealt with universal credit claims, deliver a hardship fund to the most vulnerable.
Over and beyond this, they have used their local leadership to establish recovery / redundancy taskforces. Many have also developed business grant schemes for those ineligible for national schemes, as well as business start-up support.
This has only been possible because councils have the infrastructure and relationships in place with residents and key stakeholders, and the ability to convene and mobilise quickly. These connections are hard to cultivate at any other level. Councils want to do more.
Councils and Kickstart
Kickstart was launched on 2 September. It is a six-month work placement for 16-24 year olds on Universal Credit or at risk of long-term unemployment. The Government will fund 100 per cent of the National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus associated on-costs. Alongside this, employers will receive £1,500 per placement available for setup costs, support and training. For employers that offer 30 or more placements, they will apply to DWP. For those offering less than 30 jobs, they will need to group together with a ‘representative’ before applying. Any representative / intermediary will receive £300 per placement.
The scheme is one of several initiatives for young people (youth offer, sector-based work academies, apprenticeships, T levels, traineeships). Ensuring there is a clear understanding of what each one is, how it aligns with other activity (existing/new, national/local) will be key to mitigating risks of young people falling through the gaps and / or duplicated offers. This is where councils come into their own. They are used to bringing multiple elements together, linking them to local opportunities and maximising connections with local services and the business community.
Kickstart will work best for young people, businesses and communities if it is planned and delivered in partnership. That requires real collaboration at a local authority level between national government and its agencies, councils, employers and providers to ensure a local offer is effectively coordinated, promoted, signposted, targeted and delivered.
With an appropriate level of resource, councils can add value to Kickstart in the following ways:
- Identify and refer the right young people who have most to gain from Kickstart through their statutory duties for young people – September Guarantee, Raising Participation Age, tracking, supporting those at risk of, or who are not in education employment or training, and those at risk of disadvantage (black and minority ethnic groups, care leavers, special educational needs and disabilities).
- Councils can identify / deliver appropriate wraparound support to ensure young people take full advantage of Kickstart through their wide ranging services / responsibilities including public health that link into health provision; support for parents (particularly lone parents) through Family Information Services, childcare support, and other services; and intelligence from administering Housing Benefit.
- As the only constant within a local area, councils are a trusted convener of partners. During the crisis, they have worked swiftly to establish recovery / redundancy taskforces to support business and help people back to work. Most partnerships include the council, NCS providers, JCP, LEP, chambers, business reps, schools, colleges, voluntary sector, unions. Councils can work through these structures to identify and coordinate local Kickstart jobs that are ready now and communicate the offer.
- Through planning, regeneration, business rates, environmental health functions, they link with the breadth of employers in a local area that will deliver Kickstart – from large to micro – including SMEs, and work with Chambers and other bodies. Forward knowledge of employer demand, through Section 106, current and pipeline capital / infrastructure projects, regeneration, planning functions, job creation opportunities in high demand sectors (social care, low carbon). Councils have unique access to employers and can bring more employers to the Kickstart table, complementing JCP’s efforts, and help plan further phases throughout Kickstart’s duration.
- Provide capacity / expertise to drive economic development at council and sub national level (LEP, Growth Hubs, Careers Hub, Skills Advisory Panels, ESIF committees). Councils can spot how national funding / policy can best be targeted locally.
- Councils can take on young people as a major local employer in their own right and promote Kickstart through public contracts. As major local employers, procurers, commissioners of local services / infrastructure schemes, they provide direct pathways into employment and training, stipulating jobs for local people and local companies in the supply chain.
- Some have dedicated teams that directly deliver integrated employment and skills services for young people, adults and employers, including all age careers advice, job support, apprenticeships, adult learning and sector skills support. Where they run their own employment and skills services, councils can use these to broaden Kickstart’s reach to residents and businesses.
- In designing Kickstart, it is important to learn the lessons from Future Jobs Fund (FJF). In Blackpool, the council ran FJF, and created 180 jobs in 8 months for 18-24 year olds in 2011/12. 50 per cent of young people went on to another paid job after their 6 month placement. In Nottingham, FJF was managed by the council and worked in partnership to engage employers. The council kept the infrastructure in place, enabling its legacy to continue as Nottingham Jobs Fund a wage subsidy programme. If funding were available, councils could deliver Kickstart.
Making Kickstart work locally
As demonstrated above, significant local support can be provided to Jobcentre Plus. DWP should build local government into the design, commissioning and delivery of the scheme so that they can coordinate with JCP locally to create a seamless process for young people and businesses.
Devolution areas are progressing direct discussions with the Government about Kickstart. The LGA supports this and knows that constituent councils will play a key and full role in shaping and delivering that offer. Outside of devolution areas, and within a national framework, councils should be able to play their full part in the following ways.
- As a convener / place shaper of all relevant national and local partners, councils could bring together intermediaries operating in a local area to ensure there is a more coordinated approach for them to engage with young people and employers, and help ensure they address local priorities and engage other local employers.
- As a major local employer in their own right, take on young people through Kickstart work placements and promote it through public contracts
- As ‘representative organisation’ / intermediary, they could bid to bring together employers locally to deliver a set amount of jobs. They are already accountable bodies for public / EU funding including Flexible Support Fund, and can link and coordinate activity across a wider geographic footprint.
- If councils chose not to be directly involved in Kickstart, JCP should as an absolute minimum work with them to coordinate referrals, plan wraparound support, and deliver coherent messaging so that Kickstart is effectively promoted locally.