We know that young people have been some of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. I was therefore pleased that, as part of our Plan for Jobs, the Government announced its Kickstart initiative: a £2billion Scheme to create hundreds of thousands of new, fully subsidised jobs for young people across the country.
The scheme offers fully funded 6-month placements to 16-24 year olds who are claiming Universal Credit and are at risk of long term unemployment. Employers will receive funding for 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus associated employer contributions. In addition, the government will give the employer £1,500 for each young person they take on to help with any training or associated costs they might incur when setting up the scheme. The government will also ensure that all job placements continue to be of a high quality and, as such, will continue to apply rigorous checks on training support and finances.
Launched in September, 120,000 jobs have already been created for young people thanks to the Kickstart initiative, providing important employment opportunities during a very challenging time.
Turning to a different topic, readers may remember from my article in July last year that the Government has set an ambitious target of recruiting 20,000 new police officers by 2023. I was pleased that this week, the Government announced that 6,620 new officers have joined forces across England and Wales since we launched this major recruitment drive. This includes an additional 27 police officers recruited for Wiltshire Police, taking our total headcount to 1,025. The Government’s target was to recruit 6,000 extra officers by March 2021, so we are well ahead of schedule to deliver the 20,000 more police officers by 2023.
Along with recruiting more police officers, we also need to give them, and local authorities, the powers and resources they need to keep us safe. As such, we are boosting police funding by £636 million this year, bringing the total police funding up to £15.8 billion for 2021-2022. In addition, the Government has announced the second round of the Safer Streets Fund, backed by £20 million of additional funding. This funding will help PCC’s and Local Authorities crack down on neighbourhood crimes that blight our communities, enabling them to make crime cutting interventions in residential areas.
I know for many of us, lockdown has provided us with an even greater appreciation of the outdoors. As we look ahead to Spring, my office will be running a competition to find some of the best outdoor/nature/wildlife photos taken by local residents. It can be a photo of a view, a photo of the first shoots of Spring or a photo of your dog enjoying their walk! The choice is up to you, just remember to keep it local. The winning picture will be proudly displayed in both my Swindon and Westminster office, and the winning photographer will have their entry presented to them on their own canvass. For details on how to enter, please see my Facebook page or website.
On a final note, congratulation to Swindon Dance who have launched their new online platform on their website, which aims to highlight and display the work of their professional dancers and choreographers. The site will also provide information on classes and the work Swindon Dance is doing throughout lockdown – a great opportunity for them to showcase their fantastic cultural offering.