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Volume 482: debated on Tuesday 11 November 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what capacity his Department has to react quickly in the event of a rapid increase in unemployment in a particular economic sub-region. (230616)

Jobcentre Plus offers a proactive service which can respond flexibly to increases in unemployment in a particular area. For example, when Jobcentre Plus is notified of an upcoming redundancy situation in a particular locality, it makes contact with the employer to find out more about the scale and timing of the redundancies and to offer support relevant to the employer’s and employee’s needs. A range of support can be provided including information about alternative jobs and how best to source them; matching employees to current vacancies; offering on-site job shops and fairs; helping people draw-up CVs and brush-up their jobsearch skills; providing information about in and out of work benefits/tax credits; and facilitating the process of taking jobseeker’s allowance claims where this is needed.

Jobcentre Plus works with partners such as the Learning and Skills Council, Skills Development Scotland, and the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills (Wales), local development agencies and business organisations to ensure a co-ordinated response. Where a redundancy situation is particularly large relative to the size of the local labour market, additional rapid response funding is available, alongside funding from partner organisations, to provide additional help such as an individual skills analysis to help identify transferable skills and gaps; job-focused training to help individuals develop vocational skills; and an action fund to overcome individual barriers to work.

Many people who experience redundancy find alternative work quickly, but individuals who need to make a claim for jobseeker’s allowance are provided with support to help them maintain their attachment to the labour market and look for work effectively. Most jobseeker’s allowance claimants find another job quickly—over half of people making a new claim leave jobseeker’s allowance within three months and three quarters within six months. In addition to mainstream services and programmes, specialist support is also available including help with literacy, numeracy or language skills through the Learning and Skills Council’s Employment Skills Programme; access to programme centres which provide help with jobsearch skills, confidence and motivation and ‘soft’ skills associated with the world of work; and fast-tracking to the new deal for those that need it.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to monitor rapid fluctuations in unemployment levels on a (a) national and (b) regional level. (230617)

Information on unemployment at national and regional level is published monthly by the Office for National Statistics. Latest figures show that in the most recent period unemployment has risen nationally on both the ILO and claimant measures and the trends at regional level have been broadly similar.