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Jobcentre Plus (Over-50s)

Volume 495: debated on Monday 29 June 2009

8. What support and training Jobcentre Plus offers people over 50 years old to assist them to re-enter employment. (282354)

We are increasing the range of back-to-work help for unemployed people of all ages, to meet every jobseeker’s individual needs. This support includes the Jobcentre Plus rapid response service for those facing redundancy, and extra help after six months of unemployment. For those who are still unemployed at 12 months, we are introducing individually tailored help via contracted providers.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that last Thursday Corus announced substantial job losses, which include 500 managerial and technical staff at their works in Scunthorpe? What will be done for people in that sector, given that they tend to be a little older, to help them to get back into the workplace? Has he considered devising some sort of apprenticeship scheme for older workers?

Clearly I am aware of the sad news for those individuals of the Corus job losses, including the 500 at Scunthorpe that come on top of 93 already announced. I am aware that the profile of many of those jobs is professional, technical and managerial. Through our rapid response service, we have made contact with Corus in Scunthorpe and we will go in to offer help, including signposting older workers into training so that they can refresh some of their skills prior to becoming redundant, so that they can get back into work as quickly as possible. Apprenticeships for older people are an interesting idea. I am meeting the Minister for Further Education, Skills, Apprenticeships and Consumer Affairs later this week and I will have a chat with him about it.

So many more people are now going through jobcentres that the personalised service for people over 50 seems to be getting lost. What is the Department doing specifically to ensure a focus on getting the over-50s back into work?

My hon. Friend is very knowledgeable in this area, and she knows that it is important that we pay particular attention to the problems that older workers may have in getting back into work and to any age discrimination that may exist. We need to work with employers to break down some of their misunderstandings about the business gain that may result from employing workers from the rich pool of talent of those aged over 50. Part of the more personalised approach that we are taking to advice in Jobcentre Plus is to understand what talents are available in individuals and how some niche training can help them. That can be available from day one, but it is certainly available as part of the six-month offer, in which we offer a training allowance to all workers. That is a vast improvement on the situation under the new deal.