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Vocational Guidance: Carers

Volume 472: debated on Monday 25 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he has taken to ensure that (a) effective advice and support is available to those who wish to return to work after undertaking caring responsibilities and (b) that his Department’s staff are trained to provide that advice and support. (188990)

The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the chief executive of Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie. I have asked her to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Lesley Strathie, dated 25 February 2008:

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking what advice and support is available to those who wish to return to work after undertaking caring responsibilities and also that Department for Work and Pensions staff are trained to provide that advice and support. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as chief executive of Jobcentre Plus.

Everyone returning to work, and who is claiming jobseeker’s allowance, will discuss and agree the steps that will offer the best chance of finding work. This information is recorded in the jobseeker’s agreement, which is reviewed at regular intervals. Customers are given information and advice about the range of Jobcentre Plus services, including our telephony based job-matching service (Jobseeker Direct) and our internet job bank, and how to make best use of these and other vacancy sources.

People are usually required to attend their nearest Jobcentre Plus office on a fortnightly basis to discuss what they have been doing to find work and to see what further support, if required, can be offered in terms of jobsearch or training/re-training.

To continue to receive jobseeker’s allowance, people must usually be available for work for a minimum of 40 hours per week. However, restrictions on hours/days are allowed for customers who have caring responsibilities, which can be restricted to a minimum of 16 hours a week.

People who are particularly disadvantaged in the labour market can access additional help through early entry to the new deal, providing more intensive help through the support of a personal adviser and a range of opportunities to help overcome more significant barriers to employment. Similarly, early access is available to Programme Centre provision, which can provide additional help for those people who need to improve motivation and confidence, and their basic jobsearch skills.

With regard to staff training, Jobcentre Plus has a diverse customer base and a comprehensive programme of learning designed to equip advisers with the full range of knowledge and skills required to support all our customers. A new Adviser Skills Learning Routeway was introduced in September 2005, which is supported by an efficient learning routeway providing advisers with key knowledge and skills.

We work closely with external partners in the development of learning products and in the up-skilling of our advisers, ensuring that additional modules are designed and delivered when required to deal with specific customer needs. These partners are professionals and are recognised as experts in their field and are able to provide the specialised knowledge and understanding of specific customer groups.

I hope this information is helpful and assures you of our intent to provide people with the best possible service, aimed at helping them into work as soon as possible.