The economic shock of the coronavirus is affecting many local businesses, and particularly those that work in the tourism, travel and hospitality sectors. Whilst there have been government schemes to support both jobs and businesses that have been unable to trade as a consequence of the COVID lockdown, we need to look at what more can be done. The social distancing rules that have been brought in to limit the spread of the virus have made some businesses unviable. Events, conferences and live performances are often only possible for businesses to run if a large enough number of people can take part. Given that it’s government public health guidelines that are preventing these organisations from returning to businesses as usual, I believe we should look at how we can extend some of the support schemes that have been created. I hope that the Chancellor Rishi Sunak can give reassurance to people working in these sectors about what further help will be available whilst the current social distancing measures remain in place.
This month the government has launched a new scheme called Kickstart, to create work experience opportunities for young people aged 16 to 24 who are claiming Universal Credit. Whilst these are difficult times for many people trying to keep in work, school, college and university leavers face one of the most challenging job markets for many years. This new £2 billion scheme enables employers that take part to offer six-month work placements for young people, which will be fully funded by the government.
This means the government will pay 100% of the young persons’ age-relevant National Minimum Wage, National Insurance and pension contributions for 25 hours a week, which the employer can top up if they chose to. In addition, the Government will also pay the employer £1500 for each young person they take on, to support any training or associated costs, like uniforms, that they might incur when setting up the scheme. The scheme will initially be open until December 2021, but there is also the option for it to be extended. Young people will be referred into the new roles through their Jobcentre Plus work coach with the first Kickstarts expected to begin at the start of November.
Last week saw the funeral of Robert Bliss, our former District Council Leader, County Councillor for Folkestone West, and Chairman of Sandgate Parish Council. It’s been my pleasure over the last ten years to work with Robert in each of these roles, including most recently at my monthly constituency surgeries in Sandgate library, which he joined me for right up until the coronavirus lockdown started. He was a dedicated servant of his community who sought not only to do good, but to bring people together and bridge political divides. His great gift was to appreciate that even the serious business of politics and local government can still be conducted with a smiling face. Robert will be greatly missed by all of his friends and colleagues, and I send my deepest sympathies to his wife Nina, and to Robert’s family on their loss.