By Connor Steel
GOSPORT MP Dame Caroline Dinenage has welcomed the Government’s latest scheme to improve rising employment rates following the Covid-19 pandemic, which will move to achieve another half a million people into work by the end of June as unemployment figures continue to fall after lockdown rules sent rates up to high levels.
With over 1.2 million vacancies available across the United Kingdom according to the Office of National Statistics, a rise of 59% compared to before the pandemic; the scheme entitled ‘Way to Work’ will be focused on getting ‘job-ready people’ off Universal Credit and other job seeking benefits into part or full time employment.
The campaign was announced last Thursday and continues a gradual process over recent months to re-engage claimants after lockdown rules; with the increase of face to face appointments being made available and more provisions such as Job Entry Targeted Support (JETS) offering one-to-one support for new jobseekers of all ages.
These provisions were all part of a package released by Rishi Sunak in the ‘Plans for Jobs’ announcement back in late 2020, which covered the issue of youth unemployment with the £2 billion Kickstart Scheme. And in November 2021 the project celebrated that over 100,000 youngsters between 16-24 had found jobs across the country as a result of the intervention.
In contrast, It is hoped the ‘Way to Work’ scheme will benefit those most on the ‘intensive work search group’, which is one of four tiers when claiming Universal Credit and equivalents for other job seeking benefits. For those currently engaging with their work coaches; this may include longer meetings, job fairs, employer led sessions and tailored commitments.
But the Way to Work has a highly controversial element in its contents, which states that job-ready claimants will be expected to search more widely for available roles in just the fourth week of their claim instead of the current three months. This ultimately means that jobseekers could be forced to look for roles outside their experience level.
A quote from the Government’s press release explaining the scheme reads that: “This clearer focus will ensure that, if people are not able to find work in their previous occupation or sector, they are expected to look for work in another sector and this will be part of their requirements for receiving their benefit payment”.
Financial punishments are in place for the small minority of jobseekers who fail to engage with work coaches or jobcentre networks, such as those failing to attend mandatory appointments. It is not yet known what sanctions will be applied, if any, on those who fail to look for work across different sectors or don’t take up offered work.
It is also not clear whether further support aside from JETS and the Restart Scheme will be available for jobseekers who are not yet ‘job-ready’ or have been unemployed long term. Furthermore there is no details on how they aim to get more disabled people or those on the health journey into work, alongside concerns about mandatory Covid-19 injections or any new restrictions.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: “Helping people get any job now, means they can get a better job and progress into a career. Way to Work is a step change in our offer to claimants and employers, making sure our jobcentre network and excellent Work Coaches can deliver opportunities, jobs and prosperity to all areas of the country.
As we emerge from COVID, we are going to tackle supply challenges and support the continued economic recovery by getting people into work. Our new approach will help claimants get quickly back into the world of work while helping ensure employers get the people they and the economy needs.
On the day before she visited Gosport Jobcentre and spoke to staff on site, Dame Caroline Dinenage posted on Twitter alongside the press release link; saying “The Government’s Way to Work Campaign aims to support 500,000 jobseekers get back to work. This will help more people each new opportunities and ensure employers get the people they need”.
At the time of writing neighbouring Fareham MP Suella Braverman has made no comments on this new announcement from Government; which will likely be presented to Parliament in the coming weeks. These updates from the Work and Pensions comes as a new jobcentre in Fareham is set to open in the high street, following months of development on the old Poundland building (opposite Wilko).
As reported previously in the Globe, this will be an additional temporary site that will focus on appointments only; whilst the existing site opposite the Civic Offices will remain open to all with an improved focus on service delivery and drop-ins. It will be staffed with work coaches from all around the Hampshire area; including Havant, Portsmouth, and Cosham.
PICTURED BY CAROLINE DINENAGE TWITTER: Gosport MP stands outside jobcentre in town centre after meeting staff to discuss progress of ‘Plan for Jobs’ and new ‘Way to Work’ Scheme.