UP to 68,000 long-term jobless people in South Yorkshire are being helped back into work in a national programme worth up to £5 billion over seven years.
Work and Pensions Secretary Chris Grayling saw how part of the project is being run in Sheffield by Upperthorpe community association Zest, which is taking on 10 per cent of the city’s clients.
The project is being funded based on results from the numbers of people who obtain and stay in work, with money coming from savings in benefits.
Mr Grayling visited after latest figures showed unemployment had risen again, after a fall last year - although the percentage of 16 to 64-year-olds on jobseekers’ allowance has remained at 4.4 per cent in the last three months, indicating private jobs are being created to replace public ones being cut.
He said: “We have launched the biggest back-to-work programme since the 1930s to help one million people across the country. The approach is involving companies and community groups such as Zest, who know their areas best.”
Mr Grayling said projects to help the long-term jobless are particularly important, as they are competing with people who have recently been made redundant and have employment experience.
He rejected calls by Sheffield MP David Blunkett for the Government to subsidise new jobs, saying that increasing skills and improving the economy would achieve a better long-term result.
He added that economic predictions show the jobless tally will fall by one million over the next four years - even after public job losses.
Matt Dean, a manager at Zest, subcontracted by training company A4E and awarded the Sheffield contract, said: “The emphasis of the scheme is right although it will be a challenge in the current climate.”