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Vocational Training

Volume 491: debated on Monday 20 April 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent steps have been taken to assist single parents in finding work. (268057)

Lone parents are supported by a wide package of pre-employment and in-work support measures to help them move into paid work; make work pay, and help sustainability and progression in work.

From November 2008 customers who claim benefit solely on the grounds of being a lone parent and have a youngest child aged 12 or over, and who are capable of work, will claim jobseeker's allowance. This will be followed by lone parents with a youngest child aged 10 or over from October 2009, and aged seven or over from October 2010.

On 28 January 2009 we published the discussion document “Realising Potential: Developing Personalised Conditionality and Support”. This set out our proposals for how we plan to run Pathfinders in income support which will require parents with a youngest child aged three to six to work closely with their personal adviser and design their own routeway back to work through work-related activity, including training, if appropriate.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent steps have been taken to assist low-skilled people in finding work. (268060)

We work with jobseekers from day one to help them identify and get the skills they need to enter work and remain there. We continue to focus particular help where people have basic skills needs and enable them to train from the beginning of their claim. Jobcentre Plus personal advisers are also able to agree early access to the job-search and training support offered by the New Deal for people whose circumstances may make it particularly hard to find work. The introduction of the Flexible New Deal will establish a new, individually-tailored approach for all job seekers, whatever their age, skills or barriers to work.

In autumn 2008 the Government announced that additional funding of £158 million has been made available through the European Social Fund for the Learning and Skills Council's Train to Gain programme. This will enable the newly unemployed or those facing redundancy to undertake training linked to opportunities in the local labour market for up to two weeks full time or eight weeks part time. This includes funding of up to £29 million to enable the “nextstep” service to increase its support to people who are facing redundancy, are newly redundant or who are further disadvantaged as a result of the current economic downturn.

On 6 April we launched a significant package of help for jobseekers, including those with lower level skills, who find themselves out of work for six months or more. Most people are still leaving benefit quickly—75 per cent. of people move off jobseeker's allowance within six months. For those who do not, an enhanced offer is now available which includes:

Personalised support from a Jobcentre Plus adviser who will work with customers to identify the steps appropriate to enable a swift return to work;

A recruitment subsidy, or “golden hello”, for employers worth £2,500—which is made up of a £1,000 subsidy plus access to up to £1,500 worth of in-work training, dependent on location.

Support for those who want to become self-employed with advice on creating a business plan and employment credit of £50 per week for up to 16 weeks so that they have financial support during the early days and months of trading;

Access to 75,000 new work-focussed training opportunities to help customers significantly increase their skills in order to enter work. The training, delivered on a part-time or full-time basis, will allow people to progress to a full qualification whether they are in or out of work;

Work-focused volunteering placements—to help JSA claimants develop or maintain skills while looking for a job. Third sector partners in England, Scotland and Wales will broker work-focused volunteering opportunities for JSA claimants interested in volunteering.

The Government has pledged £0.5 billion over two years from April 2009 to fund this programme. We estimate that the package will fund around 500,000 opportunities within the new options over the two years.

In addition, Government continue to support jobseekers with lower level skills through a range of measures, including the Employability Skills Programme (ESP) in England and Local Employment Partnerships (LEPs).

ESP enables people to train full time from day one of a jobseeker's allowance (JSA) claim and offers learners basic skills qualifications at Entry Level, Level 1 and Level 2 alongside an employability award at Entry Level 3 and Level 1.

LEPs ensure that disadvantaged customers get the preparation and training that enables them to meet employers' needs and expectations. LEPs involve every sector from manufacturing to retail and services. They provide support to get people ready to fill a role and help employers give people a fair chance at a job.