Scheme is helping jobseekers in Norwich to find work

Finding work can be tough at the best of times, but with unemployment reaching record levels and youth unemployment also at an all time high, it is no easy matter.

But ministers are keen to tackle the problems of the long-term unemployed and those who have been out of work because of health reasons, and since June last year, the welfare to work programme has also been in this area. Nearly 400 people looking for a job under the government's welfare to work programme attended a jobs fair event with 13 employers in Norwich on Friday.

Employers included Eventguard, Advantage Healthcare, OSR Recruitment, and Building Futures in Norwich, a scheme supported by Norwich City Council which has a commitment to take on unemployed people in the area to work on a programme to build new homes on former city council-run garages.

Work programme provider Ingeus last year opened an office at Grovesnor House, in Prince of Wales Road – one of three in the county including King's Lynn and Great Yarmouth – after winning the contract to deliver the scheme in the East of England.

With ministers keen to cut the country's benefit bill, the aim is to help people receiving Job Seekers Allowance or Employment Support Allowance (formerly incapacity benefit) back into work, with each participant referred to Ingeus from the Job Centre.

Since opening its office in June, Ingeus has had 4,000 jobseekers referred to it and support includes help with CV writing, covering letters, and interview technique. For those who have been out of work for health reasons, there are also specialist sessions including physiotherapy, pilates, and help from mental health professionals.

Celli Jepson, Ingeus operations manager for Norfolk and Hertfordshire, said the all-day event was a chance for participants to put into practice some of the tips they had picked up and present themselves to potential employers.

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'We have invited 370 people who are coming in groups of 40,' she said. 'There's a range of people; some people may have had recent work experience, some may have been made redundant, some may have never worked. The job market has changed and the job for us is to know who is recruiting and what opportunities there are and match them to the clients.'

Lauren Freeman, an employment advsior at Ingeus, is the first person many jobseekers encounter when they are referred by the Job Centre.

'When they come in we run a 'diagnostic' on them and there are sessions to help get their skills up to date. It really is a mix of people,' she added.

'We have 18-24-year-olds with no work experience, right up to people nearing retiremement age.'

Amanda Bargewell, manager of Burlingham House residential care home, at North Burlingham, near Great Yarmouth, said she had already recruited catering staff through Ingeus and they were now looking to recruit carers as the home is looking to expand and add 50 additional beds in the next year. She said the advantage of the set-up was that jobseekers had already received a lot of support about how to go about getting work.

'If people have been out of work for some time they go and offer support and if we have any problems with any of the employees they do come out and resolve them,' she said. 'They also hold interviews beforehand, which can help filter the selection process.'

Helen Gordon, co-ordinator of Building Futures in Norwich, said: 'We've had some good level candidates come through from Ingeus, it has worked very well.

'It isn't just about getting people into work; they are also being given training so that they can go on to other jobs. The people we've employed will be able to move into other jobs as and when their current roles come to an end.'

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