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8 September, 2021 Open access

While context around the government’s Covid-related employment programmes has moved on, the DWP has failed to adapt or change its plans, say MPs

In addition, Public Accounts Committee expresses concern at shortcomings in the Department's data on diversity and disadvantaged groups making it 'impossible to measure its effectiveness' or explain 'shocking inequality' in unemployment

While the context around the government's Covid-related employment programmes has moved on, the DWP has failed to adapt or change its plans, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has said.

In a new report, DWP Employment Support, the PAC examines the DWP's response to the anticipated rise in unemployment as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the effectiveness of the support provided, in particular the £1.9 billion Kickstart scheme - which aims to create jobs and provide employability support for young people on universal credit who may be at risk of long-term unemployment - and the three-year, £2.9 billion Restart scheme - which aims to help people who are already long-term unemployed into sustained employment.

However, noting that the Kickstart scheme was announced in the early days of the pandemic (July 2020) as part of the government's Plan for Jobs, the PAC points out that a significantly different labour market has since emerged, and that - 

'Despite the much lower and later peak of unemployment that the Department now expects, the extension of furlough until September 2021 and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reporting that job vacancies in most industries are now above their pre-pandemic levels, the Department has not made any changes to the timing or scale of Kickstart. The Department remains committed to creating 250,000 Kickstart job-starts by the end of December 2021, closing the scheme to new applicants at the point unemployment is expected to peak, and with the busiest months for Kickstart job starts expected to coincide with the reopening of the economy.'

In addition, the Committee questions the Department's support for ethnic minority and disadvantaged groups - 

Accordingly, the PAC sets out a series of recommendations for the Department, including that it should - 

Chair of the PAC Meg Hillier said today - 

'In response to the pandemic, DWP has increased spending on employment programmes a staggering eight-fold in the space of a year. But there is a lack of curiosity about the impact of the policies it’s implementing.

When we are talking about the long-term prospects of a generation of our young people, and the extraordinary differential in job losses among young black people this needs serious attention now or a whole generation will be scarred. This needs to be a real focus now to avoid embedding inequality of opportunity over decades.'

For more information, see DWP unable to explain 'shocking inequality' as unemployment among young black people surges to 41.6 per cent in pandemic from parliament.uk