There is limited evidence that Rishi Sunak’s £2bn jobs programme for young people is working, according to a new report.

The National Audit Office (NAO) watchdog warned that the government has “limited assurance” over whether the Kickstart scheme, aimed at 16 to 24-year-olds, is having any positive effect or creating high quality jobs.

The government says that some 100,000 jobs have been created through the scheme, but it is unclear if these roles would have been created anyway, said the NAO.

The Kickstart scheme was designed to create six-month work placements for young people claiming benefits following a sharp rise in unemployment following the pandemic last year.

But the NAO has also cautioned that more could be done to ensure that the jobs created are “targeted at those who need them the most”.

Gareth Davies, head of the National Audit Office, said: “At the start of the pandemic, DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) acted quickly to set up Kickstart to help young people into work when youth unemployment was predicted to rise significantly.”

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Chancellor extends the Kickstart scheme

“However, DWP has limited assurance that Kickstart is having the positive impact intended,” Mr Davies said. “It does not know whether the jobs created are of high quality or whether they would have existed without the scheme.”

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In its report, the NAO added that the labour market reopened in ways that were not originally expected due to following lockdowns.

This increased the risk of the government subsidising jobs that would have been created anyway, the NAO said.

The government had initially stated that it intended to get 250,000 young people on a Kickstart placement by the end of this year – but fewer than 2,000 young people had started new roles through the scheme as of January 2021.

This summer, the DWP admitted that this target was unrealistic. It now estimates there will be up to 168,000 starts by the end of March 2022.

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