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Vocational Training

Volume 488: debated on Wednesday 25 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent steps the Government have taken to assist those returning to work from long periods of unemployment. (258236)

[holding answer 23 February 2009]: The Government are doing everything that they can to help those who become unemployed back into work as quickly as possible. We recognise that extra support is needed during the downturn, and a range of new help is being made available to jobseekers.

We are investing an extra £1.3 billion to ensure that through Jobcentre Plus we can continue to provide personal help and advice to everyone who needs it—help in finding a job, filling in job applications and writing a CV plus advice on re-training and acquiring new skills.

We also know the scarring effects of long-term unemployment both on individuals and on communities. It is important that the Government learn from the mistakes of previous recessions by doing everything we can to prevent people who lose their jobs slipping inevitably into long-term unemployment. To address this we are investing a further £0.5 billion to ensure the support available to people who lose their jobs increases the longer a person is unemployed. The package of support for people who are still unemployed after six months includes: employer “Golden Hellos” of up to £2,500 to recruit and train people; support to set up a new business along with funding for the first months of trading; additional training places to help people develop work-related skills; and more opportunities to volunteer where this will help a person move towards work.

And we are pressing ahead with our welfare reforms from this year that will increase support for unemployed people as their claim to benefit continues. We are creating a new contract for jobseekers, promising help with skills and with employability.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent steps the Government have taken to help those aged over 50 years to re-enter the labour market. (258237)

[holding answer 23 February 2009]: The Government already provide back-to-work support for those wishing to re-enter the labour market, including those aged 50 and over, through Jobcentre Plus, Local Employer Partnerships, the New Deal and Pathways to Work. We intend to extend this as detailed in the Welfare Reform Bill.

However, in response to the current economic downturn the Government have already committed £0.5 billion additional support to help prevent people out of work from becoming long-term unemployed.

We have doubled the resources available to the Rapid Response Service. The service offers support across the country for those people facing redundancy with immediate help and advice, including skills assessments and retraining, to ensure that people get back to work as soon as possible.

From April, financial incentives of up to £2,500 will be available to employers that recruit and train people who have been unemployed for six months or longer.

In addition we have introduced extra funding for training places to help unemployed people get new skills to maximise their chances of getting jobs from the 500,000 vacancies in the economy, opportunities to volunteer to help people back into work habits and help to start a business with advice on creating a business plan, plus funding for the first months of trading.

A major factor in the employment of older people is employer behaviour. In addition to providing generic good practice guidance to employers, the UK's Age Positive initiative is working in partnership with business leaders to develop sector-based models of flexible retirement to support the increased employment and retention of older workers and the removal of fixed retirement ages.