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Vocational Training

Volume 493: debated on Friday 12 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent steps his Department has taken to assist unemployed people aged over 55 into work. (272485)

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 of 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.

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

We have also introduced extra funding for training places to help unemployed people learn new skills to maximise their chances of getting jobs from the 455,000 unfilled vacancies in the three months to April 2009. In addition there are 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.

Our plans for the future include providing guidance to older workers on their options for working longer, encouraging employers to increase flexible work and phased retirement opportunities, a review of the Default Retirement Age in 2011—if it is found to be no longer needed it will be removed—monitoring the impact of the economic downturn to identify which groups are being most affected and targeting further help where it is most needed.