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Volume 486: debated on Monday 12 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he has (a) taken since July 2008 and (b) plans to take in the next 12 months to reduce levels of unemployment; what recent representations he has received about the issue; and if he will make a statement. (241159)

The Government are doing all they can to support people who become unemployed and through Jobcentre Plus and the new deal we are offering more support to help individuals move back into work as quickly as possible. The pre-Budget report made available to DWP an additional £1.3 billion of funding which will ensure that over the next two years, through Jobcentre Plus and our private and voluntary providers, we not only maintain, but increase, the support we offer.

We have already doubled the resources available to the rapid response teams who offer advice and support to those affected by redundancy. These funds will be doubled again from April 2009. The support provided by these teams can include information about sources of alternative jobs within the labour market or help with applying for existing vacancies; on-site job shops and fairs; helping people draw-up CVs or brush-up their job search skills; and, where appropriate, job-focused training to help individuals develop skills needed within the local labour market or other support to overcome barriers to taking up a specific job offer, such as travel to work expenses.

The Government are also increasing their engagement with employers. Through Local Employment Partnerships, Jobcentre Plus is already working with employers across the country to help them meet their recruitment needs locally, and to help long-term unemployed customers find work. As announced in the pre-Budget report, LEPs will now be extended to cover the newly redundant and the Prime Minister will chair a National Employment Partnership comprising major private and public sector employers who will work with the Government to agree what more employers can do to help tackle rising unemployment.

The publication of the White Paper ‘Raising expectations and increasing support: reforming welfare for the future’ on 10 December 2008, CM 7506, also demonstrates the Government's commitment to further reform to reduce welfare dependency and support more people into work. There are still many new job opportunities coming up all the time. Last month Jobcentre Plus took an average of 10,000 new vacancies every working day, with many more coming up through other recruitment channels. Together with the advice and support provided through Jobcentre Plus, this means that most of those who become unemployed can find another job quickly; over half of new claimants leave jobseeker’s allowance within three months and around three quarters leave within six months.