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Kickstart Scheme – How your small business can apply

Through the kickstart scheme, the government is funding businesses to provide temporary work placements for 16-24-year-olds. Discover how the scheme works and how you can apply.

Announced in the summer statement, the kickstart scheme is designed to both help young people find jobs and assist the UK economic recovery.

The basic idea is that the government has agreed to fund new 6-month work placements for 16-24-year-olds that might otherwise have difficulties finding jobs.

The focus should therefore be on giving these temporary employees the experience and skills they’ll need to thrive in the workplace.

All businesses are eligible, but there are certain restrictions that any small business thinking about applying for the scheme needs to be aware of.

This guide will explain how the kickstart scheme works, who can apply, the restrictions on the scheme, and the application process.


How does the kickstart scheme work?

Under the kickstart scheme, employers are given the funding to provide six-month work placements for 16-24-year-olds that are currently claiming Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment.

These placements are:

  • For a minimum of 25 hours a week, for six months
  • Paid at the relevant National Minimum Wage for the employee’s age
  • Designed to give employees the skills and experience they need to find permanent employment

Under the scheme, the government also covers the associated National Insurance and minimum auto enrolment pension contributions for those employees.

If you wish, you can also top up the payments for these placements on top of the minimum wage funding provided by the government.

Employers who successfully apply for the scheme will also be given £1,500 per job placement for setup costs (such as uniforms), support, and training.

So, as long as you can satisfy the restrictions and requirements of the scheme (see below), then all the costs associated with that employee will be covered by the government for six months.


Kickstart scheme restrictions and requirements

To be eligible for the kickstart scheme, placements must be new jobs.

They must not:

❌ replace existing or planned vacancies

❌ cause existing employees to lose or reduce their employment

❌ require people to undertake extensive training before they begin the placement

Minimum number of placements

This is crucial information – if you’re applying to set up placements through the kickstart scheme, the smallest number of placements that you can apply for is 30.

If you have lower capacity than this (if you can only set up 5, or 10, or 15 placements for example), then you should partner with other organisations to reach this total. Other organisations could be similar employers, or local authorities, trade bodies and/or registered charities.

If you need help finding a representative, then you should get in touch with your local or national kickstart scheme employer contact.

The other key point is that, beyond providing short term employment, the goal of these placements is to give young jobseekers the skills they will need to find long-term work.

The government has set out three key areas where employers need to focus their training efforts:

✅ Support looking for long-term work, including career advice and setting goals

✅ Support with CV creation and interview preparation

✅ Support with basic work skills, such as attendance, timekeeping and teamwork

So, make sure that you have a clear plan for how you will help your temporary employees along these lines.

Two final things to be aware of:

Kickstart scheme placements are NOT apprenticeships, but participants may move on to an apprenticeship at any time either during or after the placement.

Once you have created a job placement under the scheme, it can be taken up by a second person after the first participant has completed their six-month placement.


Which businesses are eligible for the kickstart scheme?

As mentioned above, businesses of any size can apply for the kickstart scheme, provided they can meet the minimum requirement of 30 placements (or can partner with other organisations to reach this number).

However, the scheme is only available in England, Scotland and Wales, so business in Northern Ireland cannot apply.


How can my business apply for the kickstart scheme?

If you can meet the criteria discussed above, then you can apply for the kickstart scheme online.

If you are applying for less than 30 placements, then your employers’ representative must apply on your behalf.

You’ll need the following information for your application:

  • Your Companies House reference number
  • The address and contact details of your business
  • Details of the job placements being created, including their locations
  • Supporting information that demonstrates that these placements are new jobs and meet the criteria for the kickstart scheme detailed in the requirements and restrictions section
  • Information about how your business will develop the employability skills of young people

All this information should be submitted via an online form.


What happens after I’ve applied for the kickstart scheme?

Once you’ve submitted your application, it will be reviewed to make sure that it meets the kickstart scheme criteria.

If it passes this stage, it then moves to a panel for consideration. As the government makes clear, the kickstart scheme is not a competitive process, but it does need to make sure that kickstart placements are doing what they are supposed to do – giving young people the skills and experience they need to find long-term work.

You may be contacted for further information as part of the application process.

The government aims to respond to all applications within one month.

Once it has been given due consideration, your application either be accepted or rejected.

If you’re successful

If your application is accepted, you will receive a letter with a grant agreement. This grant agreement will set out what your business has agreed to provide and how much funding you will get from the government – it’s essentially a contract that sets out what both you and the government need to do.

Once you’ve received this, you should sign and return it using the details provided in the letter.

Finally, you need to write job descriptions for each of the job placements you’re planning to create, including what candidates need to do to apply for the placement.

Once you’ve done this and submitted it, you will receive applications from young people who have been matched to your placement through their local JobCentre Plus.

You will then receive applications from candidates and can choose who to employ.

You will only get funding if you appoint a young person that was introduced to you through the government scheme.

If you’re unsuccessful

If your application is rejected, then the government will write to you and explain why your application does not meet the requirements of the scheme.

You can then submit a new application based on that feedback.

There is no limit to the number of times that you can apply but there is no legal right of appeal.

⏰ The kickstart scheme opened for applications on 2 September 2020 and is currently scheduled to run until December 2021, but may be extended.


How does my business get paid through the kickstart scheme?

You will receive your initial set up costs funding once you’ve employed someone and confirmed that that person has started work, is enrolled on your payroll, and is being paid through PAYE.

After this, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will use information from HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) to check that the young person is still employed and being paid.

The grant will then be paid in arrears – in other words, you pay the young person and are then later paid back by the government.

During the six-month placement, DWP may contact either you or the young person you’re employing to check what support and employability training has been provided, and to ensure that the young person being employed has the best experience from the scheme.


Key points for your small business

  • The kickstart scheme provides funding for six-month work placements for 16-24-year-olds
  • These 16-24-year-olds must be claiming Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment to be eligible for the scheme
  • The placements must be for a minimum of 25 hours a week
  • They are designed to give participants the skills and experience they need to find permanent employment, and must include appropriate training and support
  • Placements are paid at the relevant National Minimum Wage for the employee’s age, and national insurance and minimum pension contributions are also covered
  • Employers who successfully apply for the scheme will also be given £1,500 per placement for set up costs, support, and training
  • Kickstart scheme placements must be new jobs
  • This is crucial – the smallest number of placements that a business can apply for is 30
  • If you can only create less than 30, then you need to apply through a representative as part of a larger group, gov.uk has more information on this
  • Once you have created a placement, it can be taken up by a second person once the first participant has completed their six-month placement
  • Businesses of any size can apply, but the kickstart scheme is only available in England, Scotland and Wales
  • Businesses can apply for the kickstart scheme via an online platform
  • Applications opened on 2 September 2020 and the scheme is currently expected to run until December 2021
  • You’ll need basic information about your business, as well as details of the placements being created, and supporting information that explains how the placements are new jobs and offer the appropriate training and support
  • The government aims to respond to applications within one month and will provide feedback to unsuccessful applicants, who can then reapply
  • You will only get the funding if you appoint a young person that was introduced to you through the scheme
  • Funding will be paid in arrears – i.e. you pay the employee and are then paid back by the government – based on PAYE data provided to HMRC

Alec Hawley
Alec Hawley

Alec is Startups’ resident expert on mobiles, investment, and politics. Before joining, he worked in the media for over a decade, conducting media analysis at Kantar Media and YouGov, writing for computer games sites like Gaming Respawn and Gamespew, and taking on a wide variety of freelance roles.