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12,000 UNEMPLOYED TO RECEIVE EDUCATION & KEEP BENEFIT

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Employment minister Alan Howarth welcomed the start of the new, larger Workskill pilots. The pilots allow up to 12,...
Employment minister Alan Howarth welcomed the start of the new, larger Workskill pilots. The pilots allow up to 12,000 people in eight regions across the country to undertake education and training for up to one year without losing benefit payments.

Mr Howarth said:

'Britain's greatest natural asset is its people. The whole nation stands to benefit if everyone is able to fulfil their potential and improve their employability. By relaxing the current benefit rules we can bring the advantages of education to more people - particularly those who need it most.

'That is why my department announced in July that the Workskill pilots would be extended to make provision for an additional 8,000 people on top of the 4,000 places announced last April.'

The pilots starting today will run for one year for full-time courses in Glasgow and Dumbarton and in Lancashire and Cumbria and for part time courses in South and South East London and in Wiltshire, Avon and Somerset. Pilots currently in operation run until 6 April 1998.

They allow people to take full-time courses in Cardiff, Bridgend and the Glamorgan Valleys and in Wolverhampton and Walsall and part-time courses in Liverpool South and Wirrall and in Leeds.

Mr Howarth said:

'The extension of Workskill Pilots supports our plans in the New Deal where we are taking active steps to improve the employability and labour market prospects of unemployed people. The Workskill Pilots will be a stepping stone towards the New Deal for long-term

unemployed people. It will be important to learn from the lessons of Workskill in drawing up the design of the New Deal. For those on the New Deal aged 25 years or over who have been unemployed for 2 years or more, we intend to change the benefit rules to allow them to take up full-time training and education for up to a year while on JSA.'

NOTES

1. The Workskill Pilots aim to evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of different arrangements for undertaking education and training while receiving JSA. In April it was announced that 4,000 people would be covered in pilots in Cardiff, Bridgend and the Glamorgan Valleys and Wolverhampton and Walsall (full-time courses) and in Liverpool South and Wirral and Leeds (part-time courses). In July it was announced that an extra 8,000 people would be covered in pilots in Glasgow and Dumbarton and Lancashire and Cumbria (full-time courses) and in South and South East London and Wiltshire, Avon and Somerset (part-time courses).

Eligibility

2. The main eligibility conditions are that the person must: (a) have been receiving JSA for six months or longer; (b) be signing on at one of the jobcentres in the Workskill Pilot areas; and (c) undertake a

course which:

(i) is employment-related. (An employment-related course is defined in law as a course 'the purpose of which is to assist persons to acquire or enhance skills required for employment, for seeking employment or for a particular occupation'.);

(ii) lasts no more than a year; and

( iii) comes under Schedule 2 to the Further and Higher Education (FHE) Act 1992 or section 6 of the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992.

3. When deciding whether someone may undertake a course under the Workskill Pilots, a number of other factors will also be taken into account by Employment Service advisers. These include the person's skills and qualifications, his or her work experience, and the number of jobs in the labour market which demand the skills and qualifications that the course would develop. The number of people on the new, extended, pilots will be limited to about 2,000 in each area (limit is about 1,000 in existing areas). Part-time participants

4. Participants on the part-time pilots may restrict the hours for which they are available for work during the term-time of their course, as long as the total number of hours for which they participate in the pilots and are available for part-time work is at least 40 in any week (unless they are already allowed to restrict the hours for which they are available to less than 40 because they are people with mental or physical conditions or because they are carers). Full-time participants

5. Participants on the full-time pilots are not required to be available for or actively seeking work during term-time.

Job offers

6. People on the pilots who are notified by the Employment Service of an appropriate full-time, permanent job will be expected to apply for it. This is because the Pilots are mainly about getting people into work. But people who are within four weeks of finishing their course or of their examinations will be able to refuse a job offer so that they can finish their course.

Examinations

7. All participants are not required to be available for or actively seeking work during any week in which they are taking an exam relating to their course, even if the exams take place after the course has finished.

Attendance and progress

8. Participants must show that they have attended the course and made satisfactory progress. They are given a form which they must ask the course provider to sign every two weeks to confirm that they have met these requirements.

9. People on part-time courses will be asked to take this information to the jobcentre every two weeks at a time which does not clash with their course. People on full-time courses under the pilots will be allowed to send the form in and will normally attend the jobcentre only every 13 weeks at a time which does not clash with their course.

10. Participation in the pilots is voluntary. But once on a course, people will be expected to attend. Those who leave their course because of misconduct or without a good reason may lose their JSA for two weeks. But there are, of course circumstances in which participants will have a good reason for leaving a course under the pilots. These are:

(a) for any reason during the first four weeks;

(b) if they genuinely cannot keep up with the course; or

(c) if the course is not suitable.

Transitional arrangements

11. People already taking courses in the Workskill Pilot areas when the pilots start will be able to transfer to the pilot if they wish, so long as they are eligible. If they prefer, they will be able to complete their course under the existing JSA rules and will still be able to take advantage of the normal JSA concessions.

12. People who would normally have been eligible for the pilots but are unable to participate because the limit on numbers has been reached in their area will also be able to take advantage of the normal JSA concessions.

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