I remain busy trying to push for greater action to prevent widespread youth unemployment. At this month’s Work and Pensions parliamentary questions, I asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the gap is between the predicted levels of young people losing their jobs due to the pandemic, and the pitiful numbers likely to be helped by their Kickstart scheme. She didn’t know, which I considered not good enough. Since then, it has been revealed that Parliament itself considers the Kickstart scheme to be too complicated to participate in, which gives little confidence to small businesses trying to do the right thing.
I also asked the Secretary of State if it makes any sense at all to end furlough -and self-employment support- on the same date as the Universal Credit up date, as announced in the Budget, when we all expect the end of the furlough scheme to sadly impact on unemployment. This is a disaster waiting to happen, and again, the response wasn’t good enough. Personally, I believe the crucial £20 a week uplift should be extended until Universal Credit is replaced with a functioning system, and extended to claimants on legacy benefits too.
On pensions, I was proud to deliver the closing keynote speech at the Trade Union Congress Pensions conference this week. I touched on how we expand auto-enrolment, how we ensure the state pension in properly indexed for future generations, how we get people more engaged in their pensions, and how meet the challenge of climate change. I also spoke to an industry panel about getting better pensions advice to consumers.