Employment Skills and Enterprise: Jobcentre Plus Update
Jobcentre Plus has a new range of opportunities designed to help more people to move from welfare benefits into sustained work. Alongside the major new mainstream programme, the Work Programme, sits a range of provision, flexibilities and new ways of working that are tailored to local needs and reflect the growing role of Jobcentre Plus in employment, skills and enterprise development as defined in the White Paper on Local Growth published in October 2010.
Work Clubs have been established across Cornwall to provide locally led advice and support to help people get back to work and a place where people can share expertise and experience. Some are community based, some aimed at specific customer groups such as graduates, people with learning disabilities and people with hearing impairments. A list of current Work Clubs in Cornwall can be found at www.cornwallworks.org.uk/cornwall-works/work-clubs.html.
Any group or organisation can set up a Work Club. A how-to guide can be found at www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/work-club-guide.pdf. Start-up costs may also be available through Jobcentre Plus. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information, including how to apply. Work Clubs could add value to, or be further developed through links to the ESF Convergence Community Grants programme when this becomes available over the summer months.
Work Together promotes the positive benefits of volunteering as a way to maintain skills and motivation for people who are looking for work. Jobcentre advisers are encouraged to refer to a range of volunteering opportunities, either direct or though volunteer centres. For many, this will be sufficient to plug the gap between jobs. For others, it will be a taster or route into more structured volunteering opportunities that are part of a pathway back to work delivered through current ESF Convergence programmes.
Work Experience is for unemployed young people aged 18-24 where lack of work based experience is a barrier to securing work. Placements are secured through Jobcentre Plus and usually last between 2 and 8 weeks, but can extend for up to 12 weeks where this is linked into an apprenticeship. Work experience provides a useful “front-end” to an apprenticeship at no additional cost to the employer or future apprentice.
Enterprise Clubs and the New Enterprise Allowance are important steps in helping more people on benefits to start their own business. Similar to Work Clubs, Enterprise Clubs offer informal and helpful networking opportunities for people wanting to work for themselves. Jobcentre Plus is working with current start-up providers and enterprise organisations in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to see how Enterprise Clubs can add value to the current range of provision available.
The New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) programme will start in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly on 31 May 2011. It aims to help people who have been claiming Jobseekers Allowance for 6 months to start their own businesses. A key criteria in determining suitability for the programme is the potential for the new business to grow. The programme will provide access to a business mentor, support to develop a business plan and, when the business commences, access to a loan of up to £1,000. In addition, participants will receive an allowance of £65 per week for the first thirteen weeks of trading and £33 per week for the next 13 weeks. The loan scheme will be delivered through a national service. The mentoring and support service will be delivered locally by a Lead Accountable Body. Jobcentre Plus is currently working with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to determine the successful applicant.
The Work Programme will commence in June 2011. Two preferred suppliers, Prospects Ltd and Working Links, have been announced and pre-contract discussions with DWP and Jobcentre Plus are taking place. Entry to the Work Programme will be mandatory for young people (aged 18-24) who have been claiming Jobseekers Allowance for 9 months and for people aged 25 and over claiming Jobseekers Allowance for 12 months. For people claiming Employment and Support Allowance, entry will be mandatory from the point where the individual is assessed as being able to work within 3 months.
The European Social Fund Convergence Programme will provide additional investment to enable voluntary entry to Work Programme support for people claiming Incapacity Benefit and Income Support. Towards the end of 2010 additional European Social Fund delivery will focus on workless households and families with a history of worklessness. The timetable for tendering this activity through the DWP Provider Framework is not yet confirmed.
Skills Provision all Jobcentre Plus customers receiving “active” benefits (Jobseekers Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance - Work Related Activity Group) can receive fully funded skills provision to level 2 (and above in some circumstances). Where Jobcentre Plus advisers refer people to skills provision, they can also support them with travel and other costs through their Flexible Support Fund.
Senior members of the Jobcentre Plus External Relations Team have been meeting with skills providers to broker relationships with operational colleagues. It is these local liaisons that will be key to ensuring this new and more direct relationship between skills providers and Jobcentre Plus works for the benefit of our mutual customers. It also affords Jobcentre Plus a real opportunity to influence skills delivery that is relevant and timely in supporting the needs of individual jobseekers and of business. In the words of the Local Growth White Paper:
“Jobcentre Plus can actively support local enterprise partnerships through advice and guidance on the local labour market and ensure they work coherently with the college sector and Work Programme providers, including in disadvantaged localities. Jobcentre Plus engagement with local enterprise partnership boards will also be important as a way of ensuring that this alignment of services is built in at a strategic as well as delivery level.”
For further information contact email@example.com.