UK government pledges £238m for CV and job help as furlough wind-down looms

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·3 mins read
A Jobcentre Plus office is pictured, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Harrogate, Britain August 11, 2020. REUTERS/Lee Smith
Support for the unemployed is being ramped up. Photo: REUTERS/Lee Smith

The UK government is promising £238m ($308.1m) of new support for jobseekers, amid fresh warnings over a looming rise in unemployment as the furlough scheme is wound down.

Work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey said a new job entry targeted support (JETS) scheme would help “more than a quarter of a million people” with job-hunting.

Around 13,500 work coaches are being recruited by Jobcentres.

Support will include advice on growing sectors, CVs and interviews, according to the department for work and pensions (DWP). It will also be targeted at anyone out of work for more than three months.

It came ahead of chancellor Rishi Sunak’s speech to the virtual Conservative party conference on Monday.

Sunak is expected to promise to “create, support and extend opportunity to as many people as I can.” He will also say the “pain” of mounting job losses “only grows with each passing day,” according to reports.

READ MORE: UK economy 'resilient' but job losses rising for seventh month in a row

The finance minister said in comments released ahead of the speech: “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.”

Coffey also reiterated Sunak’s message that “sadly not every job can be saved,” and promised the scheme would give a “helping hand” to get people back into work.

But Labour shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds attacked “piecemeal schemes and meaningless slogans” when job losses could exceed four million.

“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,” he said.

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

The government has come under enormous pressure to do more to stave off job losses as the crisis drags on and the furlough scheme is wound down.

Analysis released by Labour on Monday suggests almost one million jobs could be at risk in areas under regional or local lockdowns.

The figures suggest 490,000 people remain on government-subsidised furlough leave in such areas, and another 480,000 are in areas on the government’s watch list for potential lockdowns. The furlough scheme wage grants will run out this month.

READ MORE: What to watch: Mulberry sales dive, Cineworld stock halves, and Wizz Air traffic slips

Sunak unveiled a package of new crisis measures designed to save firms and jobs last month, but admitted unemployment will continue to rise.

Business leaders and experts also warned a replacement initiative, the job support scheme, was welcome but did not go far enough to prevent lay-offs.

The scheme is designed to prevent redundancies, by topping-up the wages of workers who work and are paid for at least a third of their typical hours. Employees working a third of their usual hours will receive 77% of their normal hours if employers apply, according to the Treasury.

The government’s focus on protecting only so-called “viable” jobs has sparked controversy. Asked what the term meant last month, Sunak said the “test” was whether employers were prepared to keep staff working and paid for a third of their usual hours.

There are fears firms in many sectors such as events, travel and aviation, still hamstrung by restrictions and the pandemic, will not be able to afford to cover enough of staff’s wages to qualify. The scheme also forces employers to match government top-ups beyond hours worked, with several experts warning there was little incentive for employers to sign up.

WATCH: How to create the perfect CV