Government launches £238m employment programme in wake of pandemic

Scheme to offer coaching and advice to jobseekers who have been out of work for three months because of Covid-19

More than a quarter of a million people left unemployed by the pandemic are being promised help to get back into work as part of a £238m scheme announced by the government today (5 October).

The new job entry targeted support scheme (JETS) will help those left jobless for at least three months during the Covid-19 crisis get back into work by giving them access to flexible and tailored support, including CV and interview coaching and specialist advice on moving into sectors of the economy experiencing growth.

Speaking to the BBC, work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey said the scheme would be specifically targeted at adults over the age of 25, helping them transfer their skills to growing sectors of the UK economy, including construction and social care.

“JETS will give recently unemployed people the helping hand they need to get back into work, boosting the prospects of more than a quarter of a million people across Britain,” Coffey said.

The scheme has already launched in several locations across the UK – including much of Wales – and will become available in more regions in the coming months. The government has said part of the funding will be used to recruit an additional 13,500 "work coaches" to help deliver the new scheme.

Last month, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed 695,000 Brits have lost their job since March, with unemployment at 4.1 per cent. The estimates revealed this drop to be the largest since 2009 when comparing both quarterly and annually.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak – who is expected to talk about the new scheme in his Conservative party conference speech later today – said it would provide “fresh opportunities” to those who had lost their jobs as a direct result of the pandemic, ensuring that “nobody is left without hope”.

Sunak added: “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.”

However, the Labour party’s shadow work and pensions secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, said the scheme offered “very little new support", and was "too little too late". “By the government's own admission at least four million people could lose their jobs during the crisis,” Reynolds said. "All it can muster in response are piecemeal schemes and meaningless slogans.”

He added that the scheme relies too heavily on “overstretched” work coaches “on the ground”, and many of the new work coaches the DWP has promised had “yet to materialise”.

The new programme is part of the government’s ‘plan for jobs’ and follows the launch of a £2bn Kickstart scheme, which promised to create thousands of jobs for young people

The scheme comes as Burger King, Pizza Hut, Fuller's and TSB have announced closures, putting thousands of jobs at risk. Over the weekend, Britain’s largest cinema chain, Cineworld, said it will shut theatres in the UK from this Thursday (8 October) as a result of the decision by film studios to postpone big-budget releases. The move puts up to 5,500 jobs at risk.