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Volume 493: debated on Friday 12 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps are being taken to reduce unemployment levels amongst low-skilled people. (275880)

[holding answer 15 May 2009]: The UK Government have made a commitment to develop and deliver a fully Integrated Employment and Skills (IES) system in England by 2010-11. This new integrated service will bring together and reform existing employment and skills services to better help jobseekers get the right balance of job search and training to help them into sustained employment and to progress in their career and, in particular, to help those with basic and employability skills to engage with the labour market and get, keep and progress in a job.

Under the auspices of this service:

Claimants will receive personalised support from a Jobcentre Plus adviser who will work with customers to identify the steps appropriate to enable a swift return to work, including referral to careers advice or skills training where appropriate.

Jobcentre Plus Personal Advisers are 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.

The Employability Skills Programme (ESP) enables people in England to train full-time from day one of a jobseeker's allowance (JSA) claim where there are both basic and employability skills needs.

Local Employment Partnerships (LEPs) ensure that disadvantaged customers get the preparation and training that enables them to meet employers' needs with the expectation that, in return, employers with vacancies give them a fair shot at getting a job.

We are working jointly with the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and the Learning and Skills Council to ensure that when people move into work they continue learning through apprenticeships or Train to Gain. This will enable them to remain in work and continue to progress.

In addition, in response to the current economic downturn, the Government have announced that:

Funding of £158 million has been made available through the European Social Fund for the Learning and Skills Council's Train to Gain programme for people who are newly unemployed or facing redundancy to undertake training linked to opportunities in the local labour market.

From April 2009 LEPs have been made available to all claimants from day one of unemployment.

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. This support includes, amongst other things, access to 75,000 new work-focused 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 support people in progressing towards a full qualification.

We have removed barriers to full-time training making it easier for long-term unemployed people to get access to new skills in order to compete for the local jobs on offer. The Government have put the funding arrangements in place to enable jobseekers at the six-month point in their claim to move to a training allowance in order to benefit from full-time intensive training of up to eight weeks, designed to meet employers' needs.

The Budget 2009 announced a guaranteed offer of a job, work-focused training, or meaningful activity to all 18 to 24-year-olds as they approach the 12-month stage of their claim to jobseekers allowance (JSA).