Government announces £400m unemployment support package

The government will create more than 100,000 new jobs, apprenticeships and training places for jobseekers as part of a £400m package of support for the unemployed over the next 18 months.

As the number of 16- to 24-year-olds out of work reached 932,000 in the three months to October, the Building Britain’s Recovery: Achieving Full Employment White Paper, out yesterday, outlined new measures to tackle rising youth unemployment and help people off benefits and back into work.

The document, published by the Department for Work and Pensions, confirmed employers will be further incentivised to take on apprentices with £12.5m having been set aside to fund 5,000 ‘golden hello’ payments of £2,500 for those hiring 16- and 17-year-old apprentices.

Iain Wright, minister for 14-19 Reform and Apprenticeships, said: “Apprenticeships are a key route to building the national skills base and a fantastic way for young people to progress in the workplace, and they make good business sense. Thousands of employers are already taking on apprentices – but it is right that we help make it easier for them.”

John Cridland, deputy director-general at the CBI, welcomed the financial support for employers taking on young apprentices during the recession.

He said: “We’re pleased that the government has adopted this CBI proposal from the summer to help deal with rising youth unemployment. The recession has left many firms struggling to provide apprenticeships, so this extra funding will be very welcome. This will give more young people a positive start to their careers.”

The government also pledged that everyone under the age of 25 will be guaranteed a job, training or work experience after six months’ unemployment, in a bid to ensure youth unemployment falls in the second half of 2010. Previously, the jobs guarantee scheme only kicked in after 12 months out of work.

In total, £300m of the £400m package will be spent on tackling youth unemployment.

The White Paper also confirmed changes to Jobcentre Plus to make the service more flexible for both employers and jobseekers, revealed by employment minister Jim Knight earlier this month. The new flexible approach will be piloted in Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire, South West Wales, Glasgow and Greater Manchester.

The government also pledged to offer more jobs in policing, the health sector, probation service and transport earmarked to help the unemployed find work.

To encourage more people to move from benefits back into work, the government has said it will also introduce a Better Off in Work Credit of £40 a week.

The White Paper also announced the launch of a Family Friendly Working Hours Taskforce to investigate what more needs to be done to make work more family friendly. This taskforce will report in the spring.

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