£5m funding boost promises to help at least 3,000 people back to work in Sheffield

The 5m pilot scheme aims to help at least 3,000 people at risk of long-term unemployment
The 5m pilot scheme aims to help at least 3,000 people at risk of long-term unemployment

At least 3,000 jobseekers in and around Sheffield are set to receive extra support to find work after up to £5 million of government funding was announced.

People who have recently become unemployed, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, will get tailored support to help them into work as part of a pilot scheme run by Sheffield City Region (SCR) Combined Authority.

The new initiative was hailed by local enterprise chiefs as a 'visionary' approach to ensure no one misses out on the growing number of high value jobs they said are being created in the area.

The Devolution Pilot, as the Sheffield scheme is known, is aimed at people in their first year of unemployment who face barriers making it harder to find and hold down jobs.

Homeless people, domestic violence victims, ex-offenders and people with mental health problems are among those who could benefit from specialised support.

The five-year initiative, beginning in January, will help people across Sheffield City Region, encompassing Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley, Doncaster and parts of Derbyshire.

Beneficiaries, including older people, disabled people and youths who have recently left care, can be referred by JobCentre Plus, councils and other organisations.

Work and pensions secretary David Gauke said: "This pilot is yet another step forward in our efforts to help people of all backgrounds enjoy the benefits of work, and will boost the wide ranging support we currently offer through local experts like Jobcentre Plus."

Chris Read, Rotherham Council leader and chairman of the SCR skills, employment and education board, said: "As we see the numbers of our high value jobs growing we are ensuring that no one in our communities misses out on this growth.”

Nigel Brewster, vice chairman of SCR Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "This is a visionary exercise. Employers want the best people, and they are very keen to see help for those who face hurdles getting into work. This scheme will benefit the whole region."

Today's announcement came just weeks after the Government confirmed it was closing the Eastern Avenue job centre in one of Sheffield's most deprived areas.

The Devolution Pilot is one of three employment schemes being run by SCR Combined Authority. The others aim to provide training for up to 2,000 people who have recently been made jobless and to help up to 4,500 people with health problems to find or stay in work.

The area has the sixth highest level of economic inactivity out of 39 local enterprise partnerships in the UK, with the fourth highest proportion of people within that group reporting long-term sickness.

The funding was announced amid increasing uncertainty over devolution plans for the region. A deal to give the area extra funding and new powers, which supporters claim is worth £900m, was recently put on hold so Barnsley and Doncaster could 'explore other options'.

'A joined-up approach to help jobseekers' - employment minister Damian Hinds on £5m pilot scheme

People across the country are benefiting from a strong and resilient jobs market with record numbers in work and unemployment rate at the lowest since 1975.

As we mark Yorkshire Day, it's fitting to highlight that Sheffield City Region is no exception to this employment success. Over the past year, 34,000 more people found work in the area, and the unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 2005.

But a strong local economy and jobs market don't happen on their own – they take hard work and dedication from businesses and local employers. Already in the past few months Jobcentre Plus in Sheffield has helped support thousands of people find work – including hundreds of jobs at the new IKEA superstore.

By encouraging investment in the area we can ensure that there are good jobs available for residents and that people have the opportunities that work brings. We all know the benefits of a regular income but work is so much more than that. It’s good for our physical and mental health, beneficial to our families and ultimately ensures thriving communities.

This is why as Minister for Employment I’m committed to helping even more people find and stay in work and today I can announce that with Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, we are investing up to £5m to pilot a new approach for helping people find employment in the local area.

In partnership with the Sheffield City Region we will provide people who have been out of work for a significant amount of time with an employment mentor who will support them on their journey back into the workplace.

Being out of work for long periods of time can really knock your confidence and knowing how to come across well in an interview and the sorts of skills employers are looking for can be a challenge.

Drawing on local knowledge, this pilot will bring together organisations across the city region, to identify people at risk of long-term unemployment, and people in need of help, and support them into work.

This joined-up cooperative approach will ensure jobseekers in the Sheffield City Region are receiving the best possible support for their needs at all times.

Of course local people are best placed to help others in their community. There’s a huge range of expertise already in the Sheffield City Region and this funding will draw on this knowledge to help up to 3,000 local jobseekers find a route into work.

This pilot is yet another step forward in our efforts to help people all across the country to enjoy the benefits of work and I look forward to seeing the Sheffield City Region leading the way.