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Volume 503: debated on Thursday 14 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps her Department is taking to reduce unemployment. (304302)

We are taking decisive steps to reduce unemployment. As part of the Government’s commitment to support people into work, £5 billion has been made available since November 2008 to offer extra support to jobseekers to help them find work at all stages of their claim.

The Department has quadrupled the available funding for the Rapid Response Service, which provides advice and support to customers facing redundancy. Also, we launched an enhanced offer to all jobseekers at day one of their claim which includes targeted group sessions in jobsearch techniques, access to local employment partnership vacancies and help with the costs of getting back to work through the Adviser Discretionary Fund.

At the six month point in a claim, all jobseekers now have access to a substantial package of extra support including recruitment subsidies, work-focussed training places, volunteering opportunities and support to become self-employed.

If an individual remains on benefits after 12 months they will be referred to the provider-led flexible new deal programme (currently being delivered in half of the country) and will receive tailored, responsive support to help them get into work. In areas where the flexible new deal is yet to be introduced, customers will access more intensive back to work support through the original new deal programmes.

The Government have also targeted significant new resource on young people in recognition of the particular challenges young people face during a recession. On 29 July, the Government launched a campaign called Backing Young Britain, calling on businesses, charities and government bodies to create more opportunities for young people, such as internships, work experience placements, links to mentors and apprenticeships. Almost 12,000 graduate internships have already become available and thousands more opportunities will follow early in 2010. Over 360 organisations are supporting the campaign, with numbers growing all the time.

Furthermore, on 15 December 2009, we announced in the White Paper “Building Britain’s Recovery: Achieving Full Employment” that from January 2010, we will introduce a stronger Young Person’s Guarantee, so that all 18 to 24-year-olds who have been claiming jobseeker’s allowance for six months will be guaranteed a job, work placement or work-related skills training. In addition, we will offer all young people access to a named personal adviser at the start of their claim and build in more time with an adviser throughout their claim.

As part of that guarantee, the Future Jobs Fund will create 170,000 jobs: 120,000 jobs for young people, and the remaining 50,000 jobs for people of all ages in unemployment hotspots throughout the country. These are real paid jobs—this is job creation, not an employment programme. The first five bidding rounds are already creating up to 98,000 jobs and the first jobs started in October 2009.

Further measures to tackle unemployment were also announced in the White Paper. These include:

from early 2010, access to the self-employment credit will be available from 13 weeks of unemployment;

for customers aged 50 and over, we will provide new specialist back to work support by using external providers to address their specific needs; widen access to work trials and ensure that those with significant barriers to employment get early access to the six month offer;

an enhancement of the better off in work credit, so that it will ensure that long- term benefit recipients will be at least £40 a week better off in work. Implementation of the new credit will begin in October 2010; and

a commitment to implement from October 2011 an improved earnings disregard for lone parents with children aged less than seven—a new tapered disregard will be tested in the progression to work pathfinders.