The Department for Work and Pensions does not know what impact its “chaotic” £1.9bn Kickstart youth employment scheme is having because no tools currently exist to measure its success, MPs have warned.
Kickstart was implemented at “immense speed”, the Public Accounts Committee said in a report published today, but the department “neglected” to put in place basic management information that would be expected for a multi-billion-pound grant programme.
PAC chair Meg Hillier said DWP set up the scheme “with good intentions but with no proper way of measuring its success”.
“The department simply has no idea whether this scheme was worth the money, not least because it has little idea what was delivered for it,” she added.
MPs also noted the scheme is set to support far fewer young people than originally anticipated. DWP is now forecasting that Kickstart will help 168,000 young people compared to the original prediction of 250,000, with a Treasury-pleasing lower cost of £1.26bn.
The department designed Kickstart in summer 2020 as an emergency intervention to address a forecast rise in youth unemployment due to the pandemic.
At that time, the furlough scheme was due to end in October 2020, but the scheme was eventually extended to September 2021.
More people found non-Kickstart jobs than the department had initially anticipated, but many young people also stayed on Universal Credit and PAC said the department does not know why these people have not taken up Kickstart jobs.
MPs also said the department does not know what employers are providing for the £1,500 grant provided through the scheme, and whether the right people are joining the scheme.
Other shortcomings identified by PAC include a lack of basic understanding about how long it takes to fill individual Kickstart jobs after they have been approved.
The committee said there was a “disappointing lack of curiosity” from the department about how the scheme is actually working for employers and the young people that it is meant to help.
The committee set out a series of recommendations for DWP, including ensuring funds are returned where employers have not used the money in line with expectations and making sure any successor schemes do not have to start from scratch.
A government spokesperson said: “Kickstart has categorically delivered, giving more than 130,000 young people opportunities to work, earn and improve their prospects.
"It responded to extraordinary circumstances at unprecedented pace, as part of the wider Plan for Jobs which has defied forecasts of unemployment rising to 12 per cent – the headline rate is actually 4.1%.
"We will consider the PAC’s conclusions as we continue our mission to get people into work so they can take home more money.”