Thousands of work coaches will be hired under a new government employment programme to help those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic, amid fresh warnings of an unemployment crisis as the furlough scheme ends.
The £238m job entry targeted support (Jets) scheme will help jobseekers who have been out of work for at least three months. It will be available to people receiving the “all work related requirements” universal credit payment, or the new style jobseeker’s allowance.
The Department for Work and Pensions says Jets will “ramp up support” to help people back to employment, with specialist advice on how to move into growing sectors, as well as CV and interview coaching. It is recruiting an additional 13,500 coaches to help deliver the programme.
The move comes as economists forecast a sharp increase in unemployment this winter, with employers such as Rolls-Royce, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, Boots and John Lewis all announcing layoffs since the pandemic began. More than a third of businesses plan to cut jobs before the end of the year, a survey last week found.
The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, who will give a speech to the Conservative party conference on Monday, said: “Our unprecedented support has protected millions of livelihoods and businesses since the start of the pandemic, but I’ve always been clear that we can’t save every job.
“I’ve spoken about the damaging effects of being out of work, but through Jets we will provide fresh opportunities to those that have sadly lost their jobs, to ensure that nobody is left without hope.”
UK redundancies rose at the fastest rate since 2009 over the summer, with struggling companies laying off more than 150,000 staff in the May-July quarter. Nearly 700,000 workers have dropped from company payrolls since March, according to the latest statistics.
Jets is going live on Monday in counties in the north-east, north-west and south of England, and in Wales and south London. It will then be extended to central England, the home counties and the rest of London later in October, and in Scotland in early 2021.
The work and pensions secretary, Thérèse Coffey, said it could help more than 250,000 recently unemployed people back into work.
The government’s furlough scheme ends this month, and is replaced with a less generous wage subsidy programme to support companies which bring back workers on reduced hours.
The Labour party warns that nearly 500,000 furloughed workers live in parts of the UK that are under Covid-19 restrictions. Another 480,000 are living in towns or cities on the national watch list, meaning infections are worryingly high.
That includes 43,000 people in Birmingham, 19,400 in Durham and 11,500 in Bolton, according to Labour’s analysis. Ending the furlough scheme will create a “jobs cliff edge”, said the shadow chancellor, Anneliese Dodds.
“The government’s failure to get a functioning track, trace and isolate system working means large swathes of the country, including in the north and the Midlands, are now under additional restrictions and face a jobs cliff edge,” she said.
“Labour urged the chancellor to introduce a wage support scheme that incentivised employers to keep more staff on. However, he ignored these calls and now nearly 1m jobs are at risk when the furlough scheme ends in a few weeks’ time.”