A COVID jobs recovery plan for young people set up by the Treasury is “failing” Scotland as fewer than 4000 are helped into placements, the SNP claims.

The £2 billion Kickstart Scheme gives employers funding to create new six-month jobs for 16-24-year-olds on Universal Credit. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) promised 250,000 posts – but while more than 219,000 have been approved since its launch last September, just 44,000 have actually been created.

And only 1.5% of the promised total have started in Scotland.

Employment Minister Mims Davies has told specialist title Recruiter that the scheme is “really beginning to motor”. But in a parliamentary answer to SNP shadow business spokesperson Stephen Flynn, she revealed that only 10,740 of the approved jobs are in Scotland and just 3830 have actually started.

They include six recruits taken on in March by The Chocolatarium in Edinburgh and seven vacancies currently being advertised by the DWP itself within the benefits centre in Greenock, Inverclyde. Other vacancies have been opened by Parkdean Resorts and with social care, construction and facilities management firms.

But Flynn claims that Scotland’s cut of the scheme is vastly out of scale, compared with its 8.2% population share. He argues that this country should be allocated around 20,500 of the Kickstart jobs. And he says it’s “proof positive” that “Westminster is simply incapable of delivering for Scotland”.

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The window for creating jobs under the scheme closes on December 31 and Flynn said: “These figures are an embarrassment for Rishi Sunak and they show, once again, how Westminster is failing Scotland.

“The Tories may boast about a so-called Union of equals but that is exposed as hollow bluster by these figures.

“Rishi Sunak promised this scheme would deliver 250,000 jobs, but in Scotland only 3830 jobs have started. Given young people are disproportionately employed in the sectors most affected by the pandemic, it is shocking that 10 months into the scheme they are nowhere near to filling the 250,000 jobs promised.”

A DWP source told The National that allocations of Kickstart post haven’t been made based on geography or population share, but criteria, saying: “If an employer fulfils the criteria they can participate irrespective of location across GB.”

A UK Government spokesperson said Scotland’s total has increased to 4400 since Davies’s data was published. The spokesperson called Flynn’s argument “wrong and misleading” because at 9%, proportionally more jobs have actually started in Scotland than in other parts of the UK.

However, Davies’s answer shows that job starts lag well behind approvals across England, Wales and Scotland, with the scheme not extending to Northern Ireland. In London, which has the highest number of approvals at 28,750, only 9710 of these have begun. In the North West of England, where 19,140 positions have been agreed, just 5570 of these are operational.

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Speaking to Recruiter, Ann Swain and Neil Carberry, who head the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) said there had been “negligible” number of applications for Kickstart jobs made available through their organisations and members.

Carberry suggested that amounted to a fill rate of 10-15% for those opened through REC members, while APSCo’s success level was 7-8%, Swain said.

They suggested Westminster leaders had underestimated the scale of the challenge, with Swain saying: “I think they thought it was going to be a breeze and then the numbers [of applicants] are just negligible.”

The DWP said there are currently more than “155,000 Kickstart placements available across the Union, each one a golden opportunity for an employer to give a young person a crucial boost to the start of their career as we level up and push to build back better”.

It added: “The scheme is one part of our wider Plan for Jobs which is helping to get young jobseekers across Scotland into work, with over 3000 moving off Universal Credit since August.”

Flynn said: “It is only with full welfare and employment powers through independence that we can deliver a strong and equal recovery for Scotland, and more opportunities for our young people.”