HUNDREDS of Barnsley’s growing contingent of benefit claimants will be helped back into work thanks to a new multi-million pound programme – despite a temporary job centre closing its doors.
The scheme – Universal Support – will provide personalised help to people facing ‘complex barriers’ to work as part of the government’s plan to tackle economic inactivity and spread the benefits of employment more widely.
Participants will be identified and referred by work coaches as well as contracted providers and it is expected to help up to 25,000 people move towards employment nationally by September next year.
It comes after it was confirmed that the temporary job centre at Wellington House in the town centre will shut in the next few months.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said the closure of these additional temporary sites, where they are no longer required, will not reduce its level of service or a claimant’s ability to access face-to-face appointments.
Estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show 39,374 people aged 16 to 64 in Barnsley were defined as out of work earlier this year.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride MP, said: “We know the positive impact work can have on our health and wellbeing.
‘This is a huge step towards unlocking the benefits and opportunities of employment for more disabled and disadvantaged people.
“I’m excited to see this help thousands more people start, stay and succeed in work.
“Our welfare reforms will help to grow the economy and just as importantly they will improve thousands of lives.”
The scheme has been designed using evidence of what works to help claimants overcome complex barriers to work, given that one in five people categorised as having ‘limited capability for work-related activity’ have said they would like to work at some point in the future.
Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show 27,398 people were using the benefit in Barnsley as of March – the most ever in the town.
A report into the town’s high rates of claimants revealed that although Barnsley fares better than its South Yorkshire neighbours, youth unemployment is becoming an issue.
Barnsley residents are 12 per cent more likely to be economically inactive than the national average, the study found, and having 1,000 more people in work would mean the borough’s residents would earn an extra £29m a year, based upon average earnings.
It added: “Figures for Barnsley show that labour inactivity rates have soared.
“It is noted that labour inactivity is mainly driven by people who are long-term sick, of which, for the majority, this is due to poor mental health.
“A key challenge is to grow the skills in the adult population and support them with career development, as well as developing digital skills.
“There are a number of new big businesses in Barnsley however, there is a disconnect between job-seekers knowing what they do, as well as a lack of awareness about what their ‘employment offer’ is.”