LANCASHIRE businesses have condemned chancellor Rishi Sunak's decision to alter a youth employment scheme, which could now see less opportunities created.

The £2 billion Kickstart scheme was originally launched in September 2020 to tackle youth unemployment by providing employers with up to £1,500, via regional funding 'gateways', to help support the costs of young people's work placements.

However, fewer than 2,000 young people nationwide have started such roles as of January 2021, while East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce claims that some funding gateways have failed to provide the full funding to employers, seeing the scheme instead as a revenue opportunity for themselves.

East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce CEO Miranda Barker said: “It is very disappointing to hear that other gateways have failed to see the principle behind this scheme, instead putting their own interests first.

"The Chamber feels passionately that Kickstart can tackle the growing issue of youth unemployment.

"Clearly, this will be more needed than ever over the next few years as we recover from the economic crisis."

Lancashire Telegraph:

East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce CEO Miranda Barker

As a result, Mr Sunak has now decided that from February 3 businesses will no longer be required to create a minimum of 30 jobs in order to apply for the scheme.

Officials hope that this will encourage more firms to sign up, however businesses in Lancashire are concerned that this could result in less jobs created and less opportunities for young people.

Ms Barker said: "It is paramount that the needs of the employer and the young person are at the heart of any gateway offer.

“When we registered as a gateway, we committed to ensure that our employers are not left out of pocket.

"We’re dedicated to working together to ensure this grant is invested with the spirit of the scheme in mind.

"The aim is to best develop and add employability to each young person’s future."

She added: "We’ll continue to be open to all who need our support.

“Despite the chancellor’s statement, we will continue to work with employers, Job Centre Plus staff and our own Chamber business training arm to offer great value for money.

"Ours is a smooth and supportive service and ensures we play our part in building back the East Lancashire economy”.

Meanwhile the government has said that the coronavirus pandemic was partly to blame for the scheme's slow uptake and that they hope to see up to 250,000 young people join the scheme by the end of 2021.

Mr Sunak said:“Young people are among the hardest hit in times like these, which is why we’re doing everything we can to ensure they’re not left without hope and opportunity.

"The Kickstart scheme is central to this.

“With £2 billion available and no limit on the number of places, it’s now easier than ever for businesses across Great Britain to take part.”