Huw visited Bexhill JobCentre on Friday 2 October to thank DWP staff for their hardwork and dedication in supporting local residents who found themselves in need of financial support and advice as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic which has had such an impact on local jobs and incomes. He was also there to learn more about their role in delivering the schemes included in the Chancellor's Plan for Jobs which was announced in July.
Senior Managers of the Department for Work and Pensions met Huw in person (socially-distanced) and over Skype at the JobCentre during his visit. They told Huw that there had been an 79% increase in Universal Credit intensive work search and Jobseekers Allowance customers at the Bexhill Jobcentre. This relates to an overall increase from 845 claimants in February 2020 to 1515 claimants in August 2020. Of those, the 18-24 age group has seen an 86% increase in customers.
This area has seen the highest increase in caseload in the country and much of this due to the fact that there are a high number of self-employed people in the area who have been hardest hit. There have also been considerable job losses in the local hospitality and smaller retail sectors. Sectors that continue to grow and recruit are the larger supermarkets and care sector. Around 30% of the local employed population are still on furlough and therefore the number of DWP customers may increase as businesses make decisions on workforce requirements when the current furlough scheme ends at the end of October.
The government is investing a total of £1.6 billion in scaling up employment support schemes, training and apprenticeships to help people looking for a job. Young people, who are amongst the worst hit by the crisis, will benefit from this.
Nationally, the DWP is recruiting a further 13,500 job coaches to help people find work. Around 650 will be employed in Surrey and Sussex. They are also setting up local Youth Hubs with local partners to help young people access a wide variety of support and advice from the DWP and other support organisations. One has already been set up in Rye and two more are planned in Hastings and Sidley, Bexhill.
The Kickstart Scheme due to launch in November provides funding for employers to create job placements for 16 to 24 year olds. Locally, more information for employers can be found on the Sussex Chamber of Commerce website and the government's website.
The Sector Based Work Academy programme placements in England will be tripled with an additional £17 million in England in order to provide vocational training and guaranteed interviews for more people, helping them gain the skills needed for the jobs available in their local area. Local delivery partners include East Sussex College who have also committed £1million to help retrain and upskill people in Sussex following the Coronavirus pandemic. A wide range of free courses can be accessed via the JobCentre work coaches or directly through the college website at this link. People do not need to be in receipt of Universal Credit in order to access these courses.
Huw said "I welcomed the opportunity to visit the Bexhill JobCentre to thank the staff who have been providing support and advice to my constituents since the pandemic started. The increase in caseload has been unprecedented and they have worked incredibly hard during this time helping local residents.
"The challenges continue and I was pleased to hear about the successful recruitment of new staff to DWP who will help local people who have found themselves out of work, many for the first time in their lives, due to the pandemic, I was pleased to hear of the optimism of the work coaches, especially those who are specifically working with young people who are looking for work. They are keen to make sure everyone is able to access all the training and support that is on offer and to help them consider new career choices with local employers."