Scottish social enterprise The Wise Group has hailed its recognition as an intermediary organisation for the UK Government’s Kickstart scheme.

The Kickstart Scheme is a £2 billion fund to create hundreds of thousands of high quality six-month work placements for young people aged 16-24, who are claiming Universal Credit.

Official figures show that unemployment in the UK has risen to its highest level for two years, with the 16 to 24 age group experiencing the biggest drop in employment compared with other groups.

Its aim is to be the intermediary of choice for private sector businesses who require 30 or fewer placements via the Kickstart Scheme.

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Some 156,000 fewer young people were in employment in the three months to July compared with the previous quarter with signs that unemployment will increase rapidly as the UK Government’s Job Retention Scheme comes to an end on October 31.

Sean Duffy, Wise Group CEO, said: “The Wise Group has years of experience and an excellent track-record in supporting employability programmes. We know how to manage successful partnerships and our technical innovation is first in class in remote delivery and reducing bureaucracy of public programme management.

“I’m delighted to support our business community as collectively we strive to support more young people into the job market and contribute to economic recovery. I’m calling on leaders, particularly in the SME community, to get in touch with us to be their Kickstart representative.”

To apply for the Kickstart scheme directly with the Government businesses will need to have a minimum of 30 placements.

Businesses requiring less than 30 placements are required to work with an intermediary.

The Wise Group can support placement needs as well as provide the wraparound support and guidance, as part of a suite of initiatives, that new recruits will need to progress towards sustainable employment.

Bootmaker Joules has revealed an 18% tumble in summer sales, but said it was "encouraged" by the recovery since stores reopened.

The upmarket clothing brand saw sales plunge 49% across retail stores and 59% in the wholesale arm over its first quarter to August 30.

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It saw online sales jump 63% and said trading since stores reopened in mid-June has been ahead of expectations, albeit still 10% lower than a year earlier.

Chief executive Nick Jones said: "We are encouraged by the group's performance in the first quarter of the financial year, with sales ahead of our expectations."

But he added the group remains cautious in the face of "challenging trading conditions and unprecedented levels of uncertainty over the coming months and into the peak Christmas trading season".

Scotland's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 6.8% in July but is still 10.7% below pre-lockdown levels, according to the latest Scottish Government monthly estimates.

Economic output in Scotland fell by 4.9% in March when coronavirus restrictions were imposed, followed by a 20.1% drop in April.

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Since then, just over half of the lost output has been restored, with growth of 3.1% in May, 6.7% in June and the latest forecast of 6.8% in July.

But GDP is 11.3% down on July 2019 levels, according to the economic forecasts.
The GDP forecasts are a summary measure of economic activity, covering the activities of households, businesses and government as both producers and consumers.

They account for Scotland's onshore GDP, so exclude offshore oil and gas extraction.

Broken down by sector, the service industries increased output by 5.5% in July although it remained 11.9% down on February's GDP figure.

Accommodation and food services - which suffered a 77.2% contraction in April - saw 70% growth in July, according to the latest estimates.

However, the sector is still 52.2% below its "normal" level, the report states, adding: "This reflects the ongoing disruption to normal business activity and reduced demand from consumers."

Arts, culture and recreation saw an 18.8% monthly increase in output, but that was more than a quarter (25.1%) down from the same time last year.

The production sector increased by 8.6% month-on-month in July, bringing it to 5.5% below the pre-lockdown level.

Output in the construction sector is estimated to have grown by 23.4%, although it is still 11.9% lower than February.

Output in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector is believed to have fallen by 0.1% in July. Compared to February, total output in the sector remains down by 5.3%.

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: "Scotland's GDP is provisionally estimated to have grown by 6.8% in July with all three main industry sectors of the economy growing.

"While this marks a third consecutive month of growth for our economy we know the coronavirus pandemic continues to have an extremely serious impact.

"We are working hard to rebuild a stronger, more resilient and sustainable economy for Scotland - with a laser focus on creating new, good, green jobs.

"However, we want to do more and continue to press the UK Government for the additional financial powers that would enable us to tailor a bespoke response to the crisis.

"I have also called on the UK Government to urgently implement some form of extension to the furlough scheme, so we can continue to provide help for the sectors that have been most heavily affected by Covid-19.

"Extending this support for eight months at a cost of £850 million could save 61,000 jobs in Scotland. Factoring in wider economic benefits, such as increasing GDP, it could pay for itself."

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: "As the Prime Minister said last night, the struggle against Covid-19 is the single biggest crisis the world has faced in our lifetimes.

"The UK Government is focused on stopping the spread of coronavirus and keeping people safe, while doing everything we can to protect the economy.

"Through the furlough and self-employed schemes, we directly supported more than 930,000 jobs in Scotland, a third of the workforce.

"Now the Chancellor's comprehensive plan for jobs is bringing in the Job Retention Bonus, creating new jobs for young people through the Kickstart scheme, doubling the number of work coaches, and are supporting jobs in the tourism and hospitality sectors through a VAT cut."

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