Coronavirus: Small firms to lose out on Kickstart scheme, says Plaid

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Large firms including Tesco have confirmed they plan to take part in Kickstart

Small firms will "yet again lose out" under a UK government scheme to create work placements for unemployed young people, a Plaid Cymru MP has said.

Hywel Williams said firms should not be made to make "joint claims" unless they are apply for at least 30 six-month placements under the Kickstart scheme.

He said firms with under nine employees were the "backbone of our economy".

UK ministers said they would "continue to work closely" with small businesses to ensure their needs were met.

The Kickstart scheme is one of the measures announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak to boost an economy damaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the scheme, launched this week, employers are paid £1,500 for every 16-24 year old they train, the aim being to help those people build the skills they need to find a job.

Currently, if an organisation is creating more than 30 job placements through the programme they can apply directly.

If an organisation is creating fewer than 30 placements they must, according to the UK government website, "partner with other organisations in order to create a minimum of 30 job placements before applying".

Image source, Plaid Cymru
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Hywel Williams accused the Tories of giving a "leg up to their friends in big business"

Mr Williams, MP for Arfon, said: "Businesses employing fewer than nine people make up 95% of all businesses in Wales and are the backbone of our economy.

"After having disproportionately suffered during the pandemic, they will yet again lose out while the Tories give a leg up to their friends in big business."

He said the UK government "must direct its support to those entrepreneurial small businesses that sustain our communities".

"I urge the UK government to scrap the requirement for small businesses to pour their scarce resources into complicated joint claims and to allow all employers to have a direct link with the DWP [Department for Work and Pensions] for this scheme."

'Easier and less labour intensive'

In the Commons, Conservative Vale of Clwyd MP James Davies called for UK government assurances that small businesses in his constituency will be able to benefit from the scheme.

Welcoming the initiative, he said he had "heard from a number of small business" that were keen to join in.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey replied that firms offering fewer than 30 placements would be asked to bid through an intermediary, such as a local council or chamber of commerce, "who will then bid for 30 or more placements as a combined bid from several businesses".

"This will make the process easier and less labour intensive to apply for these smaller companies who only want to hire one or two Kickstarters," she added.

A UK government spokesperson said: "SMEs [Small and medium-sized enterprise] are an absolutely key part of the Kickstart scheme which is why we have designed the system specifically to meet their needs.

"We will continue to work closely with them and their representative organisations to make sure that every business that wants to employ a Kickstart participant is able to.

"We have engaged widely with business and other organisations on these measures, and it has been welcomed by groups such as the British Chambers of Commerce and the Institute of Employment Studies."

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