Jobcentre Plus to face private competition under Conservatives

The Conservatives will take work away from Jobcentre Plus and instead allow private providers to offer personalised support to job seekers to get them ready for the workplace, Personnel Today has learned.

David Freud, the shadow minister for welfare reform, told the magazine that should the Tories win the next general election, the Get Britain Working programme announced on Monday would reduce the role of Jobcentre Plus and force employers to develop new relationships with private providers.

The Conservative welfare reform scheme is aimed at tackling youth unemployment by offering those out of work for more than six months instant access to tailored advice and support on finding a job, rather than waiting 12 months as under the Labour government’s proposals.

Freud said the plans would mean “we’ll be taking work off Jobcentre Plus”, and he added that the government’s job centre advisers would not be used to supply the tailored support, making way for private providers.

Freud said that employers would have to develop strong relationships with private providers as well as Jobcentre Plus.

Theresa May, shadow work and pensions secretary, said Jobcentre Plus staff had struggled to cope during the recession and had not been able to provide adequate personalised support for the long-term unemployed, so private providers would be necessary to supply that support.

She told Personnel Today: “Jobcentre Plus has had a huge increase in the number of people it has had to deal with, and they’ve found it quite difficult to cope with that huge increase and they haven’t been able to give the sort of personalised time to individuals that can be possible with the welfare-to-work providers.

“We have had lots of anecdotal evidence about very limited time being given to individuals by the personal advisers, purely because of the sheer force of numbers. So the providers, I think, can give a much more personalised approach to individuals.”

But May insisted that despite plans to take work away from Jobcentre Plus, the Conservatives had no intention to reduce the service.

She said: “There’s no question at the moment of scaling back Jobcentre Plus provision because unemployment is continuing to increase, so there’s a continuing need out there for that support at Jobcentre Plus.”

Meanwhile Freud admitted that the Conservatives’ plan to get those on incapacity benefits back into work would lead to a temporary spike in work for Jobcentre Plus, but he insisted that these people would be rapidly moved on to private providers.

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