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Job coach scheme ‘too little too late’ to save thousands from unemployment

The Jets scheme intends to help unemployed people into 'viable' industries as the Government's focus moves away from supporting struggling sectors

Ministers “must do much more” to stop people losing their jobs, a trade union boss said, as the Government launches a job centre coaching scheme to help people back into work during the pandemic.

The £238 million job entry targeted support scheme – dubbed Jets – will employ 13,500 additional work coaches to help people who are on jobseeker’s allowance and have been unemployed for three months or more, Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce to the Conservative party conference today.

The scheme will kick off this week, just as the Government’s furlough system is winding down and set to end by the end of the month. It will be replaced by a job support scheme for staff who can work reduced hours – which campaigners warn will trigger an unprecedented UK unemployment crisis.

The Covid-19-driven recession has pushed the unemployment rate to a two-year high, with the number of people on company payrolls down nearly 700,000 between March and August and set to rise as firms are left without subsidies to cover staff wages.

This new scheme offers very little new support

Jets will begin operation in job centres around Wales and the north east, north west and southern parts of England, before being extended to the rest of England and Scotland next year. Work coaches will be trained in giving specialist advice on moving into secure jobs plus guidance on CVs and interviews.

Therese Coffey, secretary of state for work and pensions, said it will “boost the prospects of more than a quarter of a million people across Britain”.

While the Government has provided “unprecedented support” for workers during the Covid-19 crisis, Coffey said, “sadly not every job can be saved”.

But the scheme is not enough to support those made redundant as industries struggle to stay afloat under Covid-19 restrictions, critics say.

Trades Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Frances O’Grady said Jets is “just a drop in the ocean”.

She told The Big Issue: “Ministers must do much more to stop people losing their jobs. That means real help now for industries facing a tough winter, like aviation, retail and hospitality.

“And ministers need to do far more to create good new jobs.”

Research by the TUC showed that 1.2 million jobs could be created within two years with Government investment in green transport and infrastructure.

People who lose their jobs must get the support they need to get back on their feet,” O’Grady said. “That means investing in a major retraining programme, support for the self-employed and urgently raising the rate of Universal Credit to stop people being plunged into poverty.”

Last week a study from employee support organisation Acas showed that more than a third (37 per cent) of UK firms were planning on making redundancies as the furlough scheme ends.

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, said: “By the government’s own admission at least four million people could lose their jobs during the crisis. All it can muster in response are piecemeal schemes and meaningless slogans.

“This new scheme offers very little new support and relies on already overstretched work coaches on the ground, while many of the new work coaches promised have yet to materialise.

“It’s too little too late again from a government that simply can’t get a grip on this jobs crisis.”

The Government’s announcement comes as 5,500 workers find out they could soon be out of work due to the temporary closure of Cineworld.

The cinema giant says it has not reached a final decision on the closures, but staff complained that they found out about their potential redundancy through social media reports.

Cinemas have struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic as restrictions limit audience numbers, exacerbated by major crowd-drawing films like the new James Bond film, No Time to Die, being pushed back into next year.

It’s one of several industries being devastated by the pandemic and gathering restrictions. The Jets scheme will support unemployed people into “viable” jobs, causing concern among the arts and live music sectors that support for them is not part of the Government’s long-term plan.

The Big Issue is fighting the unemployment crisis through the Ride Out Recession Alliance, bringing together the most innovative ideas and experts to help keep people in work and in their homes during the recession. Get in touch with what you think can be done to support those in need by emailing rora@bigissue.com.

Image: HelenCobain/Flickr