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Jobcentre Plus offers Flexible Advisory Services for Penkside jobseekers

SARH is a key partner on the Penkside Project. The Project aims to address inequalities in health and wellbeing of children and families and access to employment in the Rickerscote and Silkmore areas of Stafford. One of our partners on this project is Jobcentre Plus. They have provided the following briefing note aimed at people in the Penkside area. It provides information about Jobcentre Plus’s Flexible Advisory Services.

Jobcentre Plus will be at the heart of this effort, coming together in local communities with all our partners – service providers, local authorities and employers – to find new and innovative ways to support people back to work.

Advisers will assess individual customer’s needs and identify the most suitable support, tailored to the individual and targeted at the most appropriate stage in the customer’s claim. This includes the amount of adviser intervention they are likely to need and whether they would benefit from the menu of additional support on offer. There is a greater focus on advisers diagnosing customers’ individual needs and working with them to move them into work. There is a raised expectation of customer commitment to finding work.

District management teams will work with local stakeholders to source effective support for our customers, including using a local Flexible Fund for provision. This will include skills provision from local colleges.

Jobcentre Plus is developing a menu of flexible support options to help people move back into work these include:

Work Clubs and Enterprise Clubs – These Clubs will provide unemployed people with a place to meet and exchange skills, share experiences make contact and get support to help them in their return to work. Enterprise Clubs aim to support people who are wanting to start their own businerss. Jobcentre Plus does not aim to set up or run Clubs – but will provide practical advice and guidance to those wanting to establish or support a Club. Jobcentre Plus will signpost customers to appropriate Clubs where available.

Work Together – Voluntary work can help an individual stay or move closer to the world of work. It can also help them develop valuable work skills whilst they are looking for paid work. Jobcentre Plus recognises that volunteering can be a positive experience for many unemployed people – it helps build confidence, offers valuable work experience and enables people to make a contribution to the wider community. In recognition of this Jobcentre Plus launched Work Together in October 2010 to promote the value of volunteering with its customers and improve the way it signposts them to opportunities.

New Enterprise Allowance – The New Enterprise Allowance will help unemployed people who want to start and grow their own business. It will provide access to business mentoring, and offering financial support of around £2,000, access to a business mentor who will provide guidance and support as they develop their business idea and through the early stages of trading. Once the customer has demonstrated they have a viable business idea and is ready to register as self-employed they can get:

· a weekly allowance based on the basic rate of JSA for 3 months,

· and then at half that rate for a further 3 months;

· a loan up to £1,000 to help with start-up costs.

Sector based work academies – Work Experience placements for 18-24 year old unemployed people these include:

· Offer of 2-8 weeks work experience

· Taking a placement is voluntary – sticking with it is mandatory. Participants continue to receive their benefit whilst participating in Work Experience and, if required, will be provided with contributions towards the costs of travel and childcare.

· Service Academies will offer pre-employment training and work placements for unemployed people.

On an on going basis there is an extension of digital services this offers increased flexibility and opportunity to contact us and access our services in a way that suits them. Research has shown that many of our claimants prefer to use online services to deal with us. Customers are encouraged to use the Directgov site: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/index.htm this can help them with their job search.

Recent changes:
· National reassessment of 1.5 million incapacity benefits customers began from end of February and is expected to take three years to complete.

· Intention is to focus on capability for work, driven by belief that appropriate work is good for health and well-being

· Customers will move to Employment Support Allowance, Job Seekers Allowance or off benefit.

More information about the Penkside Project is available from Tracy Redpath, Policy and Partnerships Manager at Stafford Borough Council  e-mail tredpath@staffordbc.gov.uk or tel 01785 619195.

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