THE number of young people in Conwy claiming Universal Credit has more than doubled in the last year.
The county has experienced a 108% rise in 18-24 year olds receiving monthly income benefits since March 2020.
As a result – coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic – many are now turning to the UK Government’s innovative Kickstart Scheme to help them on the road to their future careers.
Supported by Conwy Employment Hub – which funds pre-Kickstart courses in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – the Scheme covers the National Minimum Wage (or National Living Wage), national insurance and pension contributions of a participant on a new work placement for 25 hours a week over six months.
The initiative has been embraced by hundreds of companies including Key Care and Support, based in Llanfairfechan, a recruitment and care agency which used it to secure 30 positions for young people at organisations in North Wales and the North West.
Among them is Sophia Faux, whose placement is with Idlewild Animal Sanctuary in the Conwy Valley.
She said: “I joined Idlewild at the end of December and have gained new skills, including how to handle and care for an array of animals, and administering basic medication.
“Sadly, my time with them ends in June and I really wish it could continue as I have learnt so much, it has really boosted my confidence and helped me a lot.”
Key Care and Support Director Ian Finch encouraged other companies to take advantage of the Kickstart Scheme before it ends in December.
“We have opportunities for staff in administrative, health and social care and animal care work placements, and work closely to support young people develop their skills during the work placement, through effective mentoring and training,” said Ian.
“From the point of view of an employer, we are training the future workforce with the support of funding from the Kickstart Scheme as well as boosting the confidence of young people, so it is valuable.
“For us it has been hugely successful, but more importantly as a business owner I believe it’s vital we help young people find employment – I would definitely urge other businesses to consider it.”
Sam Chadburn, DWP Employer Partnership Manager for Conwy, echoed those words.
“Careers within the health and social care sector in Conwy are continually growing, so to have Ian and the team at Key Care and Support be so passionate about supporting young people into jobs is fantastic,” she said.
“We have seen a huge rise in the number of young people claiming Universal Credit since March last year, which is why it is more important than ever – notably given the challenges brought on by COVID-19 – that business owners see the benefits of creating new opportunities for our young people to learn and develop new skills under the Kickstart Scheme.”
Libby Duo, Conwy’s Principal Officer for Skills and Employability, added: “The time is now for employers to get in touch and help us identify suitable placements for young people across the region.
“This is a golden opportunity to help young people receive the support they so desperately need.”