Work and pensions secretary Yvette Cooper has vowed to use the government’s Local Employment Partnership (LEP) schemes to create more jobs for older people – despite the rapid growth of youth unemployment.
Yesterday at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, Cooper announced that the government would treble the number of jobs it aimed to create through LEPs – from 250,000 to 750,000 – by the end of 2010.
But she told Personnel Today the new LEP opportunities should be used to offer the over-50s personalised support from Jobcentre advisors to help them get back into the workplace.
She said: “We want to expand the LEPs and these are not simply about helping young people.
“I think it’s hugely important that now as we expand – and treble – the work we are doing and the people we are helping, that we make sure that it is particularly sensitive to the needs of older people, and the particular challenges that older people face in terms of discriminations and prejudices when they go into the workplace.”
There are now 370,000 people aged over-50 who are out of work – an increase of 50% over the past 12-months. But 947,000 16- to 24-year-olds are also jobless.
Tom Wright, chief executive of Age UK – formed in April after Age Concern and Help the Aged merged – warned that the support offered to older people through Jobcentre Plus ‘routinely fails’ the over-50s.
He said: “Some of the support currently offered through Jobcentre Plus routinely fails [the over-50s]. Many of those we spoke to said advisors make little effort to find them jobs to match their skills and experiences.
“We are calling for the government to do much more to improve the support offered by the Jobcentre Plus and to provide financial incentives to employers to take on people aged over-50, particularly those who have been out of work for six months.”
Cooper added that the success of LEPs to date had been better than expected, claiming 26,000 businesses had now signed up.
“It has been working and has been delivering very impressive results – far more than we ever expected – in terms of the impact it’s had on getting people back into work who otherwise thought they might not,” she said.
The High Court last week ruled that it was lawful to force people to retire at the age of 65 , but conceded that there was a compelling case to scrap the default retirement age.