Change Jobcentre focus, small firms demand

JOBCENTRE Plus, the Government s jobs and benefit service, is spending too much time processing benefits for unemployed people at the expense of helping small employers fill their vacancies, they complain. The Federation of Small Businesses found in a rec

JOBCENTRE Plus, the Government's jobs and benefit service, is spending too much time processing benefits for unemployed people at the expense of helping small employers fill their vacancies, they complain.

The Federation of Small Businesses found in a recent survey that one firm in three found the service ineffective, while half of companies had no idea whether it worked or not.

The FSB says that, with unemployment set to rise to three million by the end of the year, and the number of under-25s on jobseekers' allowance having risen by 80 per cent in the past year, it is clear that urgent action is needed.

In another FSB survey, nine per cent of respondents said they planned to take on more staff in the next six months, despite the recession - which would amount to more than 400,000 new jobs. It is well known that small firms are the country's job-creators, with 84 per cent of new jobs across the EU created by small businesses between 2002 and 2007, the federation asserted.


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A new FSB report entitled 'The job centre is not working' sets out recommendations for reforming Jobcentre Plus from an organisation that it says appears focused on processing benefits applications to one that supports work.

Fewer than 20 per cent of small businesses said they used Jobcentre Plus to recruit, instead using advertising and recruitment services.

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The FSB proposes that the Government establishes links between Jobcentre Plus, Business Link and skills boards to create a focus on business needs and the skills needed for local employment; appoints a dedicated small business manager in each Jobcentre, who understands the specific circumstances and needs of small firms; commissions research to examine how funding allocated to unemployment, training and business support initiatives is spent; and overhauls the Jobcentre Plus website to make it fit for 21st century online recruitment.

FSB Huntingdonshire chairman Malcolm Lyons said: "Small businesses are big employers, and with 57 per cent of those without employees keen to take on people in the future, they must be given all the support they need to create jobs, and so effectively tackle the problem of rising unemployment head on.

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